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Turkish officials say Saudi Arabia not cooperative in Khashoggi probe

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Turkish officials on Wednesday accused Saudi Arabia of not cooperating with Turkey’s investigation into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in İstanbul last week, as video footage and the names of a 15-member Saudi team suspected of ties to the case emerged, The Washington Post reported.

Turkey has put in a request to enter the consulate, where Khashoggi was last seen Oct. 2 as he stepped through the compound’s front gate to obtain papers for his wedding. However, despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s offer to Bloomberg News for the Turkish government to search the premises, Saudi Arabia is delaying and does not want an investigative team to enter, one senior Turkish official said.

Saudi officials in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The Saudis now seem to delay,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. “They say: ‘You can’t make a proper investigation here. You just come here for a cup of tea and we’ll show you around’.”

“The Saudis are not cooperative in this investigation,” another Turkish official said. “We don’t have the access we need to the consulate or to the consul’s house.”

Under the Vienna Convention, a host country cannot enter the grounds of a foreign diplomatic mission without permission. Saudi officials strongly deny any involvement in the Khashoggi disappearance and insist he left the consulate unharmed that day. However, they have not presented any evidence to back that claim. They say their numerous video cameras were not recording at the time.

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he had talked to Saudis at the “very highest level” about the disappearance. “I’m not happy about this,” he said. “It’s a very serious situation for us and this White House. . . . I think we’ll get to the bottom of it.”

Before Khashoggi’s disappearance, US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him, according to two people familiar with the information. The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, the people said. It is not clear whether the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target, the people said.

Khaled Saffuri, a friend of Khashoggi’s in Washington, said the journalist told him as they had lunch early this summer that he had received a call from one of Mohammed’s close advisers asking him to return to Saudi Arabia and guaranteeing his safety. “I said, ‘Would you go?’ He said, ‘I’m not crazy’.”

The senior Turkish official said Turkish authorities have “strong indications” that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. They also hope to search the Saudi consul general’s residence, 500 yards away. Several vehicles, including a black Mercedes-Benz Vito van, headed from the consulate to the residence two hours after Khashoggi entered the diplomatic facility, according to a video obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday, which purported to lay out the movements of the 15-man team.

The footage was compiled and edited by Turkish authorities piecing together a timeline of the events of Oct. 2, the last day Khashoggi was seen, according to a person close to the investigation who provided it. It came as the Turkish newspaper Sabah published the identities of the 15 men.

Three Turkish officials confirmed that the list was accurate. “We know all the names,” said one, a security official who declined to be named because the information is sensitive. “They are correct.”

One was a “forensic expert,” the senior Turkish official said.

The Turkish official said authorities believe that the 15-member team killed Khashoggi at the consulate. Whether that was deliberate or an accident is not clear. The official said members of the team drove around İstanbul looking for parks and open areas in what he speculated may have been an attempt to find a place to dispose of a body.

“There is no body,” he said. “If there is no body, you can’t say its murder.”

The official said there were indications that the body may have been dismembered. Turkish authorities have gathered personal effects and clothes of Khashoggi to obtain his DNA as they request access to the diplomatic buildings. They are also in possession of two cellphones that his fiancée said he left outside with her before entering the consulate. He was also wearing an Apple Watch the day he disappeared, said one person familiar with the investigation. Apple Watches can track data such as the wearer’s heart rate.

The video shows a private jet that Turkish authorities say the men used landing at the airport. It arrives at 3:28 a.m. with nine people on board, the video shows. They then checked into the Movenpick Istanbul Hotel, a short drive from the consulate.

At the Movenpick earlier this week, management would not confirm or deny that the hotel was part of police investigations. But one hotel worker said Turkish authorities had visited several days earlier to look into guests who arrived Oct. 2.

Other members of the purported Saudi team arrived at “different times,” according to the video.

Some members reportedly stayed at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Istanbul.

The video gives insight into the disappearance of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post’s Global Opinions section. However, The Post cannot fully verify its authenticity; the video is highly edited and contains some inconsistencies.

Video time stamps show a black Mercedes Vito leaving the Saudi consulate a minute before it arrives at the consul general’s house. The person who provided the video said authorities are aware of that inconsistency and said one of the camera’s timers was not accurate.

He said the video was prepared by Turkish authorities “for internal purposes.” The covered carports at both the consul general’s house and the consulate shield from the cameras who is entering and exiting the cars.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, said the figure entering the consulate appears to be Khashoggi and the figure is dressed as she last saw him. She waited outside after he went in.

Cengiz said the figure seen in the video pacing outside while on the phone could be her, but she cannot be sure. It is too distant to be clear, she said.

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