In this photo, Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. (AP Photo)
Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday. The official described a quick and complex operation in which Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.
“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said.
Saudi officials have denied the allegations, insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim. It remains unclear how the Turkish government determined that Khashoggi had been killed. Some pro-government news outlets have reported that the police were still investigating the possibility that Khashoggi was abducted, not killed. But as more than a week has passed since he was last seen, the possibility that he is alive has dwindled.
The security establishment concluded that Khashoggi’s killing was directed from the top because only the most senior Saudi leaders could order an operation of such scale and complexity, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential briefings. Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Khashoggi disappeared, the official said. All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services, the official said. One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body, the official said.
Erdogan was informed of the conclusions on Saturday, according to several people with knowledge of the briefings, and he has since dispatched officials to anonymously tell myriad news outlets, including The New York Times, that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate. But Erdogan himself has not publicly accused Saudi Arabia of killing Khashoggi. Nor has the Turkish president disclosed specific evidence to back up that allegation. Saudi Arabia continued to disclaim any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate. Both governments said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia had allowed the Turkish police to search the Istanbul consulate.