A pro-government newspaper in Turkey said they have identified a 15-member intelligence team allegedly involved in the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Daily Sabah published images and security video of the so-called “assassination squad” as they entered the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi—a prominent Saudi journalist and regime critic—was last seen entering on Oct. 2.
Turkish officials believed that 59-year-old Khashoggi, also a Washington Post contributor, was murdered inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has strongly denied all such reports. As of writing, they have not commented on the 15 nationals.
An unnamed source told the Washington Post that before Khashoggi disappeared, U.S. intelligence had already intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi. The Saudis planned to lure Khashoggi back to their country, per the source, who said it was not clear why they wanted to, according to the Post.
Previously, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said reports suggesting Khashoggi went missing in the Istanbul consulate or that Saudi Arabia had killed him “are absolutely false and baseless” and a product of “malicious leaks and grim rumors.”
“[Khashoggi] is a Saudi citizen who went missing after leaving the Consulate,” the ambassador said in a statement. Saudi Arabia has sent a team of investigators to work with Turkish authorities and “chase every lead to uncover the truth behind his disappearance.”
The Turkish newspaper also published the names, faces, and years of birth of each of the 15 intelligence team members. They did not disclose how they were obtained. No evidence has yet surfaced to show if Khashoggi is dead or alive, but it has been over a week since his disappearance.
Sabah reported that 12 of the members arrived early on the day of the disappearance, based on photos captured at passport control. The 15 departed at four different times.
The images themselves do not offer proof of Khashoggi’s alleged fate but it puts additional pressure on the kingdom to disprove them amid growing international concern over an apparent crackdown on dissent.
Khashoggi had entered the consulate at the time to get documents for his upcoming marriage. The Saudi government said Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, but his fiancee, who was waiting outside, said he never appeared.
United States ‘Concerned’
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Oct. 10 that he has spoken with Saudi Arabia officials and said he was “concerned” over the reports. A day earlier, the state department called for Saudi Arabia to conduct a thorough probe into the case.
Khashoggi had first left Saudi Arabia last year, saying he feared retribution for his criticism of Saudi policy in the Yemen war and its crackdown on dissent.
“It’s a very sad situation, it’s a very bad situation and we want to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said. “We are going to take a very serious look.”
Trump also said that the White House would be meeting with Khashoggi’s fiancee, though at the time, he referred to her as his “wife.”
“His wife wrote us a letter, addressed to my wife and myself and we are in contact with her now. We want to bring her to the White House,” Trump told reporters.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Trump’s comments about the ongoing talks between the two countries over the issue.
“White House National Security Adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, spoke to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman yesterday about the missing Washington Post journalist,” she said on Oct. 10.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the Crown Prince to reiterate the United States request for information. In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as available,” Sanders added.