Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday.
Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” said one of the people. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
They offered no specific evidence to back up the account. Earlier Saturday, however, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency said the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office had opened a probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Turkish authorities have said that Khashoggi never left the consulate.
Saudi Arabia had vehemently denied that Khashoggi, who contributed to The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, was detained after he entered the mission.
In an interview with Bloomberg News last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Khashoggi had left the consulate shortly after he arrived Tuesday. Saudi officials have yet to provide any evidence for that assertion.
The United States is aware of The Post report but cannot confirm it, and does not know where Khashoggi is, a senior U.S. official said Saturday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case on the record.
U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the Turkish conclusions.
The killing, if confirmed, would mark a startling escalation of Saudi Arabia’s effort to silence dissent. Under direction from the crown prince, Saudi authorities have carried out hundreds of arrests under the banner of national security, rounding up clerics, business executives and even women’s rights advocates.
“If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,” Fred Hiatt, the director of The Post’s editorial page, said in a statement. “Jamal was — or, as we hope, is — a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom. He is respected in his country, in the Middle East and throughout the world. We have been enormously proud to publish his writings.”