US intelligence knew Khashoggi was targeted: Washington Post

DAILY SABAH WITH AP
ISTANBUL
Published 10.10.2018 12:40
Updated 10.10.2018 17:36
emAP Photo/em
AP Photo

U.S. intelligence services were aware of Saudi Arabia's plans to capture Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Citing a person familiar with the case, the report said U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials elaborating on a plan to seize Khashoggi.

It was not clear whether Saudi officers intended to arrest and interrogate the dissident journalist, or planned to kill him, the source said and added that it was also unknown if the U.S. had warned Khashoggi that he was being targeted.

Turkish media published footage on Wednesday of a 15-member "assassination squad" allegedly sent to target journalist Khashoggi, and of a black van later traveling from the Saudi consulate, where he went missing, to the consul's home.

The release of the photographs and video raised pressure on Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi disappeared Oct. 2 during a visit to the consulate. Turkish officials fear that the team killed the writer, who was critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The kingdom has called the allegations "baseless," but has not provided any evidence that Khashoggi left the consulate and did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

TRT aired video purportedly showing the Saudis arriving by private jet and then leaving a hotel. The footage shows Khashoggi entering the consulate. An hour and 54 minutes later, according to the time stamp, a black Mercedes Vito with diplomatic license plates, which resembled a van parked outside of the consulate when the writer walked in, drives some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to the consul's home, where it parks inside a garage.

The footage all seemed to come from surveillance cameras, which would have been posted throughout the district housing the Saudi consulate and other diplomatic missions. No one has produced any such footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.

The Sabah newspaper published images of the "assassination squad" apparently taken at passport control. It said they checked into two hotels in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and left later that day.

Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia's assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led a widely publicized drive to reform the Sunni monarchy but has also presided over the arrests of activists and businessmen.

On Wednesday, the Post published a column by Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She acknowledged the writer first visited the consulate on Sept. 28 "despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger." He later returned Oct. 2 after being promised needed paperwork so the two could be married.

A surveillance video image surfaced Tuesday showing Khashoggi walking into the consulate in Istanbul's upscale 4th Levent neighborhood. No evidence of him leaving the consulate has been made public, but Turkish officials also have yet to provide evidence he was kidnaped or killed.

Khashoggi had sought to become a U.S. citizen after living in self-imposed exile since last year, fearing repercussions for his criticism of the prince, Cengiz wrote.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were "open to cooperation" and would allow the consulate building to be searched. It's unclear when such a search would take place.

Embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to reassure its Western allies and the international community.

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