Facts are beginning to emerge how Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was lured to that country from his home in the U.S. and detained.
According to Washington Post, the 59-year-old Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Turkish officials have said that they believe Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered inside the building by members of an elite “assassination squad.”
Saudi officials say Khashoggi left through an alternate exit, but have offered no proof to support that contention.
The Post report cited U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan, as well as interviews with some of Khashoggi’s friends.
They claimed that senior Saudi officials had approached the journalist with offers of protection — including a government job in at least one case — if he would return to his native country.
According to one friend, Khashoggi told him “I don’t trust them one bit” after a conversation with one such official.
Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Trump administration has come under increasing pressure to press the Riyadh government for details about his whereabouts.
Earlier Wednesday, a bipartisan group of more than 20 senators instructed Trump to order an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance under legislation that authorizes the imposition of sanctions for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross human rights violations.
“It’s pretty clear to me that something very bad happened to this man,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News’ “The Story with Martha MacCallum.
“If this happened, if they murdered this journalist who works for The Washington Post in a consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, that’s a game-changer for me.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said national security adviser John Bolton and presidential senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke on Tuesday to the crown prince about Khashoggi.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate the U.S. request for information and a thorough, transparent investigation.
On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said that the U.S. had “no advance knowledge” of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Al Jazeera also reported that Turkish media 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.
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 was born 13 October 1958 in Madinah. He received elementary and secondary education in Saudi Arabia. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana State University in 1982.
He is the former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al Arab News Channel. He is internationally respected for his contributions to Al Watan, a platform for Saudi progressives.
He fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017, and had since written newspaper articles critical of his home country.
Khashoggi is a critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and the nation’s de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman. He has also criticised Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.
*Al Jazeera and Fox News