A 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad’ had ‘carried out Khashoggi’s assassination’ in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, Turkish authorities alleged Thursday, Al-Jazeera reported.
The head of the forensic unit in the Saudi defence forces, a former head of intelligence at the Saudi Arabian embassy in London and several special forces officers are among the group, which flew into Istanbul on Tuesday, October 2, according to a report by AJ.
All 15 men had booked four nights in hotels near the Saudi consulate but left Turkey less than 24 hours after arriving.
Moreover, Turkish investigators revealed that a testimony from a source who was inside the Saudi consulate at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance who claims to have heard sounds of a struggle, according to reports by Al Jazeera.
“I have learned earlier that, among the evidence with the investigation is testimony from inside the consulate at the time that Jamal [Khashoggi] was there, which includes hearing sounds of loud screams and shouting, as well as calls for help and the sound of a struggle and then sudden silence,” he said to AJ.
AJ quoted Turkish foreign ministry sources denying that Saudis rescinded their authorisation for Turkish authorities to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The ministry’s remarks came after some media outlets claimed that Saudi Arabia cancelled an offer to allow Turkish authorities onto the premises after Turkish state-owned media published a list of the 15 Saudi nationals who allegedly arrived in Istanbul on the same day Khashoggi disappeared, AJ reported.
Turkish investigators are also requesting to search a number of vehicles registered to the consulate, along with the home of the consul general, which is a few hundred metres from the consulate, after a van with tinted windows was seen leaving the consulate and driving to the home a couple of hours after Khashoggi entered, AJ reported.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul insisted Thursday that Jamal had left their premises before disappearing, Al-Jazeera reported.
In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, “The consulate confirmed that it is carrying out follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building,” it said without elaborating.
The statement arrived after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Wednesday night that authorities believed the journalist was still there.
“According to the information we have, this person who is a Saudi citizen is still at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul,” Ibrahim Kalin said. “We don’t have information to the contrary.”
Khashoggi, who has been living in self-exile in the United States, entered the consulate’s premises at around 1pm in what seemed to be a routine visit to sort out paperwork, before disappearing, the Arabic-language Arab21 news website reported on Tuesday, quoting his fiance, AJ reported.
A columnist for the Washington Post, he has been severely critical of the current bid for reform of the Kingdom by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
His fiancee, requesting anonymity told the Post she accompanied him but waited outside and called the police when Khashoggi did not emerge after the consulate closed.
Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi’s who was also outside the consulate, told the newspaper, “I think 100 percent that he is inside.”