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Turkish police believe Khashoggi killed inside Saudi consulate

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Turkish authorities believe prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared four days ago after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, has been killed, reported Al Jazeera (Qatar).

"The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate," a Turkish official told Reuters news agency.

A Saudi source at the consulate denied that Khashoggi had been killed at the mission and said in a statement that the accusations were baseless, Reuters reported.

Turkey's announcement came four days after the leading critic of the Saudi regime entered the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork.

"He went to the consulate four days ago and was then asked to return, which is why the Turkish officials believe it was premeditated and that he was lured in," Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Istanbul, said

Elshayyal added there has not been any disclosure of the whereabouts Khashoggi's body.

"However, we have heard a funeral will take place in the coming two or three days," he said before adding that it was unknown if Khashoggi's body will be present at the funeral.

Khashoggi's fiancee said he was very upset that he had to visit the consulate.

"Before going in, he handed over his phone to me and asked me to call on of Erdogan's [Turkish president] advisors if he doesn't return," Hatice Cengiz told BBC Persian.

Saudi officials in Istanbul
Earlier, sources told Al Jazeera that a delegation of 15 Saudi officials arrived in Turkey the day Khashoggi, 59, disappeared.

"The Saudi officials flew into Istanbul on two different flights," Elshayyal quoted his sources as saying, adding that it was not clear if the Saudi delegation consisted of security or diplomatic officials.

The revelations came as Turkey widened its investigation into the disappearance of the dissident Saudi journalist after Saudi Arabia failed to back its claim that he left the consulate.

Turkey's ruling party also said it will "uncover" the details surrounding Khashoggi's vanishing, adding that the country's sensitivity on the issue was at the "highest level".

"The condition of the lost journalist, details on him and who is responsible for this will be uncovered," AK Party spokesman Omer Celik told reporters at a party summit chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Al Jazeera has also learned in the next day or so video material will be released showing details of the assassination," Elshayyal said.

Erdogan is expected to hold a speech later on Sunday, although it is unclear yet if Erdogan will address the issue, possibly because of behind-the-scenes diplomatic talks.

However, Elshayyal said the incident will most probably lead to a significant diplomatic fallout between the two countries.

"We'll see severe problems arise because if the Turks are able to prove Saudi has killed a journalist who was engaged to a Turkish citizen, who was legally here and who was not wanted for any crime either by Interpol or even the Saudis themselves, it will cause a big diplomatic fallout," he said.

"Obviously it is very challenging for the Turks because they enjoy strong diplomatic relations with the Saudis, which is one of the reasons they did not comment immediately following the disappearance of Khashoggi," Elshayyal added.

Diplomatic row
Turkey's foreign ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Ankara over the issue.

Later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said Saudi authorities would allow Turkey to search its consulate.

"We will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do ... we have nothing to hide," MBS told Bloomberg.

Saudi Arabia invited a group of journalists into the Istanbul mission on Saturday, in an effort to show that Khashoggi was not on the premises.

"I would like to confirm that ... Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him," consul-general Mohammad al-Otaiba told Reuters.

Khashoggi had entered the consulate's premises at around 1pm to secure paperwork in order to marry his Turkish fiancee, identified only as Hatice A.

Hatice said she waited outside after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate and never re-emerged. Following the initial announcement by Turkish sources of Khashoggi's killing, she tweeted in Arabic her refusal to believe that is the case.

Khashoggi's suspected killing may further strain relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are on opposite sides of the multination blockade of Qatar and other regional crises.

Khashoggi, who had been living in self-imposed exile in the US for over a year, was one of the best-known critics of the Saudi government's reform programme under the stewardship of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In his writings for the Washington Post, the Saudi commentator had slammed Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen, and a crackdown on dissent and the media in the kingdom.

***

An official source within Saudi Arabia’s Consulate General in Istanbul dismissed official statements published by UK news agency Reuters that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed within the consulate, state-news agency SPA reported, and published Arab News (Saudi Arabia).

The source strongly denounced the reports, calling them “baseless allegations”, adding that he has doubts that they came from Turkish officials “who are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue.”

The official said that a security delegation consisting of Saudi investigators arrived in Istanbul on Saturday to participate in the investigations into the disappearance of Khashoggi.

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The alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside a Saudi consulate building in Istanbul has drawn backlash from the United States, reported Anadolu Agency (Turkey).

The journalist and regular columnist in the Washington Post has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

A Reuters report on Saturday said that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate building after being detained for several days. Journalists and authorities alike in the U.S. have spoken against Saudi actions.

Khashoggi is known to have been critical of the Saudi domestic and foreign policies.

Washington Post editorial page editor and colleague of Khashoggi, Fred Hiatt said that if it had indeed occurred, the murder was a “monstrous and unfathomable act".

U.S. Senator and Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy tweeted that if true, the killing should represent a “fundamental break” in U.S.-Saudi relations.

Murphy had previously demanded the Saudi government “provide an answer” on the whereabouts of Khashoggi.

Turkish police investigating the case had said in a statement yesterday that 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.

The Turkish police in Istanbul has been keeping an eye on the entry and exits at the Saudi Consulate since the time, Khashoggi entered the building, his fiancée said.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul initiated an investigation on the day of the incident while the consulate also said on Twitter that it was working in coordination with Turkish authorities.

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