Saudi gov­ern­ment planned Ja­mal Khashoggi hit: NY Times

The Miracle - - National & Int -

Top Saudi lead­ers de­ployed a 15-man hit squad to lay in wait for dis­si­dent writer Ja­mal Khashoggi in­side Riyadh’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, The New York Times said in an ex­plo­sive story. Among the as­sas­si­na­tion team was a foren­sic ex­pert who brought a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s body after killing him, the Times re­ported on Tues­day, cit­ing an uniden­ti­fied Amer­i­can of­fi­cial as say­ing. Al Jazeera couldn’t im­me­di­ately ver­ify the news re­port. The hit squad fin­ished the mur­der op­er­a­tion within two hours and de­parted Tur­key for var­i­ous coun­tries, said the Times’ source, cit­ing in­for­ma­tion from “top Turk­ish of­fi­cials”. “It is like Pulp Fic­tion,” the se­nior US of­fi­cial was quoted as say­ing, re­fer­ring to the graph­i­cally vi­o­lent 1994 Hol­ly­wood movie by direc­tor Quentin Tarantino . Ac­cu­sa­tions the Saudi lead­er­ship di­rectly or­dered the al­leged as­sas­si­na­tion of Khashoggi will put fur­ther pres­sure on the United States and other al­lies to de­mand a trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with pos­si­ble se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions to bi­lat­eral re­la­tions if it doesn’t come to fruition. Saudi of­fi­cials have de­nied any in­volve­ment in Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance and al­leged mur­der, say­ing he left the con­sulate on Oc­to­ber 2. Tur­key’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has de­manded Riyadh to prove his de­par­ture from the build­ing. Tur­key’s gov­ern­ment hasn’t pro­vided ev­i­dence after a spate of anony­mous al­le­ga­tions that the Saudi writer was killed in­side the Is­tan­bul con­sulate. Daily Sabah, a Turk­ish news­pa­per with close ties to the gov­ern­ment, named and pub­lished pho­tos on Tues­day of the al­leged 15-mem­ber Saudi as­sas­si­na­tion team ac­cused of trav­el­ling to Is­tan­bul on the day Khashoggi dis­ap­peared. The sus­pects are wanted by Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties for ques­tion­ing. Amer­i­can Sen­a­tor Bob Corker, chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said on Tues­day “ev­ery­thing to­day points to” Khashoggi’s mur­der last week in­side the Saudi con­sulate. Corker told The Daily Beast his view was reaf­firmed after view­ing clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence about the dis­ap­pear­ance. “It points to the idea that what­ever has hap­pened to him, the Saudis - I mean, they’ve got some ex­plain­ing to do,” Corker was quoted as say­ing. Al Jazeera’s Patty Cul­hane, re­port­ing from Wash­ing­ton, DC, said the del­uge of news re­ports will in­crease pres­sure on the US gov­ern­ment to act. “This was a prom­i­nent Amer­i­can colum­nist who is beloved among a small group of the in­tel­li­gence elite in Wash­ing­ton, DC and they are speak­ing out. This story is mak­ing front-page news. It is be­ing greeted by a sense of out­rage, and that is only grow­ing as each story re­veals new in­for­ma­tion,” she said. Mean­while on Tues­day, the Wash­ing­ton Post - where Khashoggi wrote col­umns after flee­ing Saudi Ara­bia over fears of ret­ri­bu­tion for his crit­i­cal com­men­tary - re­ported US in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Saudi of­fi­cials plan­ning to abduct the prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist. “Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Ara­bia and lay hands on him there,” the Post quoted a per­son fa­mil­iar with the in­for­ma­tion as say­ing. It was not clear whether the Saudis in­tended to ar­rest and in­ter­ro­gate Khashoggi or to kill him - or if the United States warned Khashoggi he was a tar­get, the source told the news­pa­per. Khashoggi en­tered the con­sulate on Oc­to­ber 2 to han­dle a rou­tine pa­per­work is­sue but he never came out, ac­cord­ing to fam­ily and friends, as well as Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties. The US res­i­dent has writ­ten ar­ti­cles over the past year in self-im­posed ex­ile that were crit­i­cal of Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man. Khashoggi, 59, has had a long ca­reer as a se­nior jour­nal­ist in Saudi Ara­bia and also as an ad­viser to top of­fi­cials. But since the emer­gence of Prince Mo­hammed, 33, as the cen­tre of power in the king­dom last year, Khashoggi has been openly crit­i­cal of the monar­chy. He as­sailed the prince’s re­forms as hol­low, ac­cus­ing him of in­tro­duc­ing a new Saudi era of “fear, in­tim­i­da­tion, ar­rests and pub­lic sham­ing”. Robert Pear­son, a for­mer US am­bas­sador to Tur­key, said the case could change the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and Saudi Ara­bia. “They must give a trans­par­ent ex­pla­na­tion very quickly, oth­er­wise the tide will quickly turn against them. It’s now been a week and noth­ing has been shown to prove about his [Khashoggi’s] safety,” he told Al Jazeera. He noted 47 US se­na­tors re­cently voted to ban US arms sales to Saudi Ara­bia - four short of a ma­jor­ity. “It is be­gin­ning to reach a gen­uine cri­sis point now, which can be solved very quickly if the Saudis are re­ally on the spot,” said Pear­son. “The arms sales bill, the war in Ye­men - those are the kinds of things that can turn very quickly into a po­lit­i­cal state­ment that will dam­age Saudi’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States, and dam­age Saudi’s rep­u­ta­tion world­wide.”

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