Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was tortured and decapitated inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, the latest reports have said.
The reports say the abduction, torture and the killing were orchestrated by a very high-ranking officer in the Saudi intelligence apparatus who had close access to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS).
CNN said the sources it spoke to affirmed that the entire Khashoggi saga could not have unfolded "without the direct knowledge of the 33-year-old crown prince," the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia,
The latest reports also gave clearer clues, for the first time, into the Saudi decision to terminate the journalist, who had written columns critical of MBS and the regime in the Washington Post. The sources said the most critical element was the suspicion that Khashoggi had ties to Qatar.
Media reports citing Turkish official said on Tuesday that Khashoggi's body was cut into pieces after he was killed on October 2. The leak from the Turkish officials came after Ankara sent experts to the Saudi consulate to carry out inspections. However, it's not yet clear how the Saudi agents disposed off Khashoggi's body.
Meanwhile, the Middle East Eye reported that an audio recording of the torture revelled that Khashoggi was killed in seven minutes.
Blood-curdling details of killing
The report reveals blood-curdling details of the killing, narrated by the unnamed Turkish source who has listened to the audio.
He said the Saudi kill squad's intention was to execute Khashoggi summarily, not to question him. Khashoggi, who had arrived at the consulate to obtain papers to facilitate his marriage with Turkish girlfriend Hatice, was in the Consul General's room when he was grabbed by the squad.
The journalist was taken to the next room and thrown onto a table. The sources said 'horrendous screams' were heard from the room even as the 15-member squad started torturing him. The screams stopped after Khashoggi was injected with an unidentified substance.
The squad leader, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, started cutting Khashoggi's body while he was alive. He put on a headphone and listened to music even as he chopped the body into pieces and asked his men to do the same, the report says.
"When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too," Tubaigy said, according to MEE.
Khashoggi, 59, 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.
From royal adviser to fugitive
Khashoggi 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.
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.