Eight days after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared during his visit to Istanbul’s Saudi consulate, Turkish media revealed images and footage of a 15-member team sent by Riyadh to target him and a black van leaving the Saudi consulate to the consul general’s home nearby.
The black Mercedes-Benz Vito shown on the video clip aired by News channel 24 resembled the one parked outside the consulate when Khashoggi walked in on Oct 2. A still from a street camera shared by media showed Khashoggi entering the consulate as a black Mercedes-Benz with green registration plate was parked in front.
The Sabah newspaper published images of the “assassination squad” from Riyadh apparently taken at passport control. It said they checked into two hotels in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and left later that day.
Saudi Arabia has rubbished these reports.
Turkish investigators are focusing on seven suspects captured on two CCTV cameras installed in the street outside the exit and entrance to the Saudi mission. The video footage shows the suspects entering the consulate half an hour before Khashoggi goes in. Three hours later, they emerge from the building, get into two cars and leave the premises.
Investigators are clueless about what happened inside the consulate after Khashoggi went in. Saudi officials claim the security cameras inside the consulate were not working that day.
But investigators believe the consulate cameras were working and the footage was removed and sent to Saudi Arabia. They are also intrigued that Turkish employees at the consulate were sent home that day after abruptly announcing a holiday.
Earlier reports citing police said 15 Saudi citizens came down to Turkey on two private jets and arrived at the consulate before Khashoggi’s visit.
One of the planes was searched by Turkish authorities before it left Turkey for Dubai. It is not known whether the second jet was also searched before it took off to Cairo. Both planes were bound for Saudi capital Riyadh.
Investigators believe the crucial CCTV footage from the consulate’s surveillance cameras was smuggled out by the 15-member team to show Saudi authorities that the mission has been accomplished.
The arrival of a group of Saudi officials ahead of Khashoggi’s visit to the consulate suggests Khashoggi was taken away dead or alive to Riyadh. It seems to be a carefully orchestrated plot perfectly executed.
After spending some time at the consul-general’s home, the 15-member team left for the airport in six cars. One of the cars was probably carrying Khashoggi or his body.
Saudi consulate has denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. According to them, the journalist left the consulate soon after his visit. But they did not provide the investigators the vital video footage of Khashoggi emerging from the embassy.
Street cameras too did not show Khashoggi leaving the mission on foot to join his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz who was anxiously waiting for him outside for 11 hours.