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U.S. intercepted Saudi plans to capture missing journalist, report says

Security guards stand outside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul Security guards stand outside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul
Adrian Cunningham | 10 October, 2018, 16:21

A newspaper close to the Turkish president published photos Wednesday of what it said was a 15-member "assassination squad" allegedly sent to target Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.

A string of reports on Tuesday added new, shocking details to the disappearance of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, including accounts of Saudi agents wielding a bone saw and a plea from his fiancée that he be returned home.

The kingdom did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Over a week into Khashoggi's disappearance, his whereabouts are still unknown, with Turkish and Saudi authorities putting forward conflicting statements over the issue.

The release of the photographs and video raises pressure on Saudi Arabia a week after Khashoggi disappeared during a visit to the consulate.

Politicians in the US, Riyadh's main ally, have warned that any harm done to the Washington Post contributor will jeopardise America's relations with the world's largest oil exporter.

A Turkish official told Reuters last week that authorities believed Khashoggi had been killed in a "premeditated" murder and his body moved out of the consulate, but details have been slow to emerge and Turkish officials have not said how they reached such conclusions. The footage shows Khashoggi entering the consulate on October 2.

While living in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was told to stop writing or posting on Twitter, where he has more than 1.6 million followers.

The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, this person said.

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The footage aired Wednesday begins by showing the 3:28 a.m. arrival on October 2 of one of two private Gulfstream jets that Turkish media say were carrying the 15 Saudis, who allegedly flew into and out of Istanbul on the day Khashoggi went missing.

Saudi Arabia is a major investor in Turkey, despite Ankara's support for the Gulf nation of Qatar, which is under a blockade led by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations.

He went into self-imposed exile in the United States previous year, and has written a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he has criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Writing Wednesday in the Post, Khashoggi's fiancée Hatice Cengiz acknowledged the writer first visited the consulate on September 28 "despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger".

Khashoggi, who wrote critically for the Post about Prince Mohammed's rise to power, also sought to become a US citizen, Cengiz wrote.

The fiancée of missing Saudi journalist to The Washington Post on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to "help shed light" on his disappearance.

Writer Jamal Khashoggi, who had written critically about Prince Mohammed and the kingdom, vanished October 2 while on a trip to the consulate to get paperwork so he could be married to Cengiz.

Turkish officials fear he was killed inside the building and his body removed. However, a police search revealed that they did not take the luggage on their return.

A surveillance video image surfaced Tuesday showing Khashoggi walking into the consulate in Istanbul's upscale 4th Levent neighbourhood.