Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the public prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing a kingdom official.
Saudi government's decision to launch the investigation came after pressure from international community and businesses intensified.
On Monday JP Morgan & Chase Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Co Chairman Bill Ford said they canceled plans to attend Saudi "Future Investment Initiative" conference, joining a number of companies that pulled out over concerns about the disappearance Khashoggi.
Major news organizations such as CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have pulled out of the conference. The Fox Business Network, the lone Western news outlet still heading to the conference, told Reuters on Sunday it was reviewing that decision.
Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom Inc CEO Bob Bakish and billionaire Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, said they were no longer going to attend.
Dissident journalist and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, 58, has been missing since last Tuesday after entering the Saudi consulate to gather documents for marriage. His fiancee and friends have said he did not leave the building. The dissident Saudi journalist's Turkish colleagues and several Turkish officials have voiced concerns that he was murdered in the consulate.
Turkish authorities repeatedly said that Khashoggi never left the consulate premises. Footage emerged Tuesday showing Khashoggi entering the building the week before.
Saudi officials and consulate workers denied murder allegations and claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate, but failed to provide any evidence of his exit from the facility.
On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia could be behind the disappearance of Khashoggi and warned Washington would inflict "severe punishment" if he was murdered.
Saudi Arabia dismissed threats of sanctions the following day and vowed the oil-rich kingdom would retaliate against such action.
"The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations," a statement by the Saudi government said.
"The kingdom also affirms that if it is (targeted by) any action, it will respond with greater action," it said.
Hours before the announcement, Tadawul exchange in Riyadh dropped by as much as 7 percent during the week's first day of trading, with 182 of its 186 listed stocks showing losses by the early afternoon. The market clawed back some of the losses, trading down over 4 percent later on.