Saudi Arabia given a few more days to finish Khashoggi probe: report

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s (above) smiles during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh were deceptive for he has bluntly told him to complete the investigation into the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi within a few days, Axios reported on Thursday.

The US ultimatum comes amid a Turkish newspaper report that one of the suspects involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance died in a suspicious car accident in Riyadh.

According to Axios, Pompeo told the crown prince on Tuesday that he should get to the bottom of the truth behind Khashoggi’s disappearance within the deadline to avoid  Saudi Arabia looking like a rogue state before the world.

After his Saudi visit, Pompeo headed to Ankara where he held talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu about the missing journalist.

Khashoggi, a harsh critic of Saudi policies, went missing on Oct 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to gather documents for his upcoming marriage with his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

He left his cell phone with Cengiz outside the consulate and instructed her to call his friends and an Erdogan aide if he fails to come out. Cengiz called them up after waiting for him for 11 hours.

Turkish investigators immediately started a probe. According to a top official, they soon found video tapes of a team from Saudi Arabia entering the consulate ahead of Khashoggi’s visit on Oct 2 and leaving the building after a few hours in a black Mercedes parked outside.

The audio tapes proved that Khashoggi was interrogated and beaten up soon after entering the building. After Khashoggi is silenced, a forensic head from Saudi Arabia asks the consul-general Mohammad al-Otaibi, to leave the room. He then tells other members of the team to listen to some music as he starts dismembering Khashoggi’s mortal remains, the official said.

Reports said Pompeo asked Turkish authorities for the audio recording of Khashoggi’s death. One report said the audio recording was handed to Pompeo while another said he was only briefed about the tapes pointing to Khashoggi’s brutal murder.

In the meantime, the Turkish daily Yeni Safak said on Thursday that local police will extend the search for Khashoggi to a forest in Istanbul and a farm house in the neighbouring Yalova province.

According to the newspaper, Turkish forensics experts found evidence of murder during long searches on the ground floor at al-Otaibi’s residence in Istanbul on Oct 17 and Oct 18. Al-Otaibi went to Saudi Arabia on Oct 16 for some unknown reason.

Video tapes show the Saudi team proceeding from the consulate in a black Mercedes to al-Otaibi’s home nearby. CCTV cameras have captured the Mercedes parked at the Consul’s garage. The Saudi team spent hours at the Consul’s home before heading to the Istanbul airport where two private jets were waiting for them to Riyadh.

According to the newspaper, the investigators are expected to excavate an area in Istanbul’s Belgrad Forest and a farm house in Yalova.

Suspect ‘dies in car accident’

Yeni Safak also reported on Thursday that one of the suspects involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance died in a suspicious car accident in Riyadh.

The victim, Mashal Saad al-Bostani, a lieutenant of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, was among the 15-member Saudi team that arrived at the consulate on Oct 2.

A columnist said al-Otaibi could be “the next execution” as Crown Prince Salman “would do anything to get rid of evidence.”

In the audio recording, al-Otaibi tells the interrogators at the consulate to “do it” somewhere outside the consulate. Or else, he will be in trouble. He is then told by someone in the team to shut up if he wants to live when he goes back to Saudi Arabia.