Official close to Saudi prince’s inner circle plotted against Khashoggi: sources

Journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi was tranquilised, murdered and dismembered by a team from Riyadh sent to Istanbul by a top officer linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle, multiple agencies said on Tuesday citing several Turkish officials who requested anonymity.

Some sources said Khashoggi was beaten to death in front of Saudi consul general and dismembered soon after he entered the Saudi consulate, above, (Image credit: CCTV/Hurriyet) in Istanbul on Oct 2.

Others said it was a Riyadh-approved kidnap plot that went horribly wrong after the tranquiliser killed Khashoggi. According to them, the official did not tell Saudi authorities what really happened to Khashoggi at the consulate on Oct 2. This forced Riyadh to remain silent for days despite pressure from nations for credible answers.

Most sources said that after Khashoggi’s death or murder, he was dismembered although they were clueless about how the body parts were disposed of.

Al Jazeera said Khashoggi’s remains were dismembered by Dr Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, the head of forensic evidence at the Saudi General Security Department. Tubaigy, who was among the 15-member team that arrived at the consulate, asked the consul general to leave the room and told others to listen to music before he started dismembering Khashoggi’s remains.

Turkey claims it has audio and video recordings that prove the journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate.

Turkish media had published CCTV pictures of the 15-member team after they arrived at the Istanbul airport.

The motive to target Khashoggi remains unclear. It may be to silence a man who was a harsh critic of Prince Salman and to permanently cut off his ties to Saudi Arabia’s arch rival, Qatar, a source said.

Turkish President Erdogan said some potential evidence like traces of toxic material seems to have been painted over at the consulate after Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish police started searching the consulate for clues from Monday. They are set to search the consul’s home which the 15-member Saudi team had visited on Oct 2 before heading back to the Istanbul airport.

Prince Salman on Tuesday told visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and to President Donald Trump over phone that he has ordered an investigation into Khashoggi’s case and the answers would be forthcoming shortly.

Pompeo is set to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday.

Trump’s approach to Khashoggi case remains unclear. He has promised to punish Riyadh if it is proved that its leaders were responsible for his death. At the same time, he money is dear to him and he does not want to cancel massive arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime, the family of Khashoggi has called for the formation of an international fact-finding committee to investigate the case.