Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi counsulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document certifying he divorced his ex-wife – never to be seen since.
Turkish sources have told media outlets they believe the Saudi writer and critic was killed inside the consulate in what they describe as “premeditated murder”.
Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi left the building before vanishing.
Here are the latest developments:
Thursday, October 11
Report: Prince Salman ordered Khashoggi operation
The Washington Post reports Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered an operation targeting Jamal Khashoggi.
Based on US intelligence intercepts, Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi from the US state of Virginia, where he resides, back to Saudi Arabia where he would be detained, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials.
It was not clear to the officials with knowledge of the intelligence whether the Saudis discussed harming Khashoggi as part of the plan to capture him, it said.
His friends told the Post that Khashoggi had been approached by Saudi officials with close ties to the crown prince over the past four months with offers to reconcile and return to the kingdom, including being given a prominent role in the government.
The writer was sceptical of the offers, however.
“He said: ‘Are you kidding? I don’t trust them one bit,'” said Khaled Saffuri, an Arab American political activist, recounting a conversation he had with Khashoggi in May.
Trump: Saudi assassination ‘looking a bit like that’
In comments made by President Donald Trump to an American TV network, the US president indicated the Saudis may have killed the critical Saudi journalist.
Asked in a telephone interview with Fox News Channel late on Wednesday whether the Saudis were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance or death, Trump said: “I guess you would have to say so far it’s looking a little bit like that, and we’re going to have to see.”
American Senators threaten arms sales repercussions
US Senator Chris Murphy said if Saudi Arabia had lured a US resident into a consulate and killed him, “it’s time for the United States to rethink our military, political and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia”.
Senator Rand Paul, a long-time critic of the Saudi government, said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate this week blocking US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He said he wants to end arms shipments if there’s “any indication” the Saudis are “implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them”.
Karen Elliott House, a veteran writer on Saudi affairs and chairwoman of the board of trustees at RAND Corp, said US support for the Yemen war is likely to be the focus of congressional criticism, but it won’t endanger a relationship that has endured for decades, underpinned by shared strategic interests.
Even under the Obama administration, which had difficult relations with Riyadh compared with Trump, there were some $65bn in completed arms sales, she noted.
“The US-Saudi relationship is certainly not about shared moral values,” House said. “It’s about shared security interests.”
Saudi official condemns ‘malicious’ accusations
The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, has described the allegations as “malicious leaks and grim rumours” and said the kingdom is “gravely concerned” about Khashoggi.
Saudi officials maintain he left the consulate shortly after entering, though it has failed to provide evidence to back that up, such as video footage.
Senior US officials call Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The White House said national security adviser John Bolton and senior adviser Jared Kushner – Donald Trump’s son-in-law – spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi’s disappearance over the past two days.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed up with his own call to the crown prince, who has forged close ties to the Trump administration, especially Kushner.
“In both calls they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
White House officials said the Saudis provided little information.
US senators trigger human rights probe
Twenty-two US senators signed a letter to President Donald Trump triggering a US investigation into whether human rights sanctions should be imposed on Saudi Arabi over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
In the letter, the senators said they triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.
“Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the government of Saudi Arabia,” the senators said.
Trump told reporters earlier he raised Khashoggi’s case with Saudi Arabia “at the highest level” and more than once in recent days.
“We want to see what’s going on. It’s a very serious situation for us and for this White House… We want to get to the bottom of it,” said Trump.
Wednesday, October 10
US advisor suspends Saudi role
Ernest Moniz, who served as President Barack Obama’s energy secretary, said he has suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia’s planned megacity NEOM, until more is known about the fate of Khashoggi.
“I share the deep concerns of many about the disappearance and possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul,” Axios cited Moniz as saying.
Moniz is one of 18 people advising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the $500bn NEOM project.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia ‘in talks’
The New York Times writes that Saudi officials on Tuesday began for the first time to contact Turkish counterparts for secret talks about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The Saudis have told Washington that they believe they can smooth over the issue, according to both Turkish and American officials briefed on the discussions,” the NYT worte.
Khashoggi’s Apple watch
A Turkish security official told Reuters news agency the Apple watch Khashoggi was wearing at the time of his disappearance was being looked into by Turkish investigators.
Security and intelligence agents in Turkey are now analyzing the watch, believing it may provide important clues as to Khashoggi’s whereabouts or what happened to him.
The device would potentially be able to provide investigators with data such as the journalist’s heart rate and location.
“We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate,” a security official said. “Intelligence services, the prosecutor’s office, and a technology team are working on this.”
Trump wants anwers
President Donald Trump says the US is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancée to the White House.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that he has a call in to Hatice Cengiz.
“People saw him go in and didn’t see him come out. We’re going to take a very serious look at it. It’s a terrible thing,” Trump said. “This is a bad situation. We cannot let this happen – to reporters, to anybody.”
Fifteen-member ‘hit squad’
Turkish media have published images of an alleged 15-member Saudi “assassination squad” and video of suspicious movements at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul following Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia remained silent as the images, though not offering definitive proof about Khashoggi’s fate, played across television networks in Turkey and around the world.
Turkish media airs surveillance video
News channel 24, a private Turkish TV channel close to Erdogan, has aired surveillance video of Khashoggi walking into the Saudi consulate, and a black van leaving later for the consul’s home.
News channel 24 aired the video, suggesting that Khashoggi was inside of the black Mercedes Vito.
The channel said the van then drove some 2km to the consul’s home, where it parked inside a garage.
Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Khashoggi’s fiancee writes letter to Trump
The fiancee of Khashoggi is asking Trump and first lady Melania to “help shed light” on the disappearance.
In a column published Wednesday by the Post, Hatice Cengiz wrote: “I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate.”
[Source: Al Jazeera]