A string of reports on Tuesday added new, shocking details to the disappearance of journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi, including accounts of Saudi agents wielding a bone saw and a plea from his fiancée that he be returned home.
Turkish officials told The New York Times on Tuesday that Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a vocal critic of the Saudi government, was assassinated under orders from senior members of the Saudi royal court and killed by a team of people within two hours of stepping into the country’s consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday to pick up a marriage document. Fifteen people reportedly traveled to Istanbul aboard two charter flights, including one person who is believed to be an autopsy expert that may have helped dismember Khashoggi’s body to remove it from the building.
A Turkish official told Reuters last week that authorities believed Khashoggi had been killed in a “premeditated” murder and his body moved out of the consulate, but details have been slow to emerge and Turkish officials have not said how they reached such conclusions.
Khashoggi had long worked for the Saudi royal family and was employed by the country’s state-sponsored media for years. But he had recently become critical of the ruling royal family and leveled sharp criticism at the government.
The Post elaborated on those accounts in a separate story Tuesday, writing that the Saudi team laid in wait for Khashoggi to enter the consulate. Some of those men were later transported in a tinted van to the home of the Saudi consul general about two hours later, and then all of them left the country on planes departing to Cairo and Dubai.
The Saudi government has refuted those allegations, saying that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he entered. However, he has not been seen for more than a week, and the only closed-circuit television footage that’s been released shows him entering the building but not departing.
The Times’ Turkish sources noted that the killing, if it did happen, could only have been ordered by senior Saudi leaders due to its complexity.
Khashoggi’s fiancée, who he was set to marry last Wednesday, issued a public plea to President Donald Trump, who is friendly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, asking him to investigate the disappearance. Khashoggi lived in self-imposed exile in the United States.
“Although his opinions had angered certain people, he said, the tensions between himself and Saudi Arabia did not amount to hate, grudges or threats,” his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote in The Washington Post. “Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive. Perhaps I’m simply trying to hide from the thought that I have lost a great man whose love I had earned.”
The U.S. government has remained relatively quiet on the disappearance, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Saudi leaders to “support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation.”
Trump said Tuesday that he hadn’t spoken to the Saudis about Khashoggi, “but I will be at some point,” according to the Associated Press.
The Post’s CEO and Publisher Fred Ryan said, however, that evidence thus far has “suggested [Khashoggi] was a victim of state-sponsored, cold-blooded murder.”
“For the sake of Jamal’s family, we call again for answers about Jamal and his whereabouts. Silence, denials and delays are not acceptable,” Ryan wrote in a statement. “We demand to know the truth.”
Turkey’s foreign minister said authorities would search the consulate in Istanbul as part of its investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, saying Saudi officials were “open to cooperation,” although it’s unclear when the event would take place. Some Turkish politicians have moved to downplay the Saudi’s role in the disappearance.