The mysterious disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has left Saudi Arabia little room for manoeuvre, with prominent world media outlets carrying reports of his killing at the behest of Riyadh.
On Wednesday, UK's Guardian reputed that the Saudi consulate officials might have engaged in some cover-up after Khashoggi's disappearance. The paper said security camera footage from inside and around the consulate building in Istanbul was removed on the day the Riyadh critic mysteriously vanished, even as his girlfriend stood outside the building waiting for his comeback.
The Guardian also said Turkish personnel working at the consulate were asked to take a holiday on that day.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that a pro-government media outlet in Turkey said on Wednesday it had identified 15 members of a Saudi Arabian intelligence team that it says was involved in the alleged killing of Khashoggi.
The New York Times earlier said the Saudi government critic was killed within two hours of his entry into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, citing top level Turkish officials.
A Saudi team was lying in wait for Khashoggi at the consulate and they killed him in a quick and complex operations, the paper said. Khashoggi's body was then dismembered using a bone saw. "It is like 'Pulp Fiction,'" an official said.
Khashoggi, 59, was the most powerful journalist in Saudi Arabia at one point of time and was very close to the ruling family. However the ascendancy of Prince Mohammed bin Salman changed the equations and he ended up being a critic of the establishment. Khashoggi went into exile last year, fearing arrest in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has denied all accusations, insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he arrived. However, while CCTV footage showing him entering the consulate is available, there is none that shows him exiting.
Shortly after the news of Khashoggi's disappearance spread, Turkey had debunked Saudi claim that Khashoggi had left the consulate premises, adding that it believed the veteran journalist was inside the Saudi diplomatic quarter.
The NYT report also claims that Khashoggi's elimination was as decision taken at the highest levels inside the Saudi establishment.
Turkish officials confirmed that as many as 15 Saudi agents had trooped into Istanbul on the day Khashoggi went missing. According to Turkey, all of them left the country after the kill job. Their respective roles inside the Saudi security services are known to Turkish government, the report says.
Who Is Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi had He worked as foreign correspondent in countries across the Middle East and edited the kingdom's largest daily Al-Watan. He had been an adviser to the Saudi royal family, and worked as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal, former Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Khashoggi was also reported to have worked for Saudi and US intelligence during the Afghanistan conflict.
He left Saudi Arabia on 18 September 2017, after turning a critic of MBS. During his exile in the US he wrote columns critical of Saudi Arabian establishment.
He had hit out at MBS in an interview with Al Jazeera in March. "As we speak today, there [are] Saudi intellectuals and journalists jailed. Now, nobody will dare to speak and criticise the reforms [initiated by the crown prince]," he said, adding that "it would be much better for him to allow a breathing space for critics, for Saudi intellectuals, Saudi writers, Saudi media to debate".
Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to get the paperwork done for his upcoming marriage with fiancé Hatice. His fiancé said he entered the consulate building in the afternoon of October 2, after passing on his mobile phone to her. However, he didn't emerge from the building even after several hours.