Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Turkey seeks black van it believes took Khashoggi’s body

The Guardian, ISTANBUL

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman, right, flanked by Egytian opposition politican Ayman Nour, left, hold photographs of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Turkish authorities are examining motorway cameras in the search for a black van that they believe carried the body of Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week — one of six cars investigators say belonged to a Saudi hit squad thought to be behind the suspected murder of the dissident journalist.

Officials say the convoy left the consulate about two hours after Khashoggi entered.

Security camera footage shows boxes being loaded into the van, which carried diplomatic number plates. After leaving the consulate grounds, three cars turned left on to a main road while the remaining three turned right.

Investigators say one of the vehicles, a van with blacked-out windows, has become the focus of the investigation, and was briefly tracked to a nearby motorway.

Nearly a week since Khashoggi disappeared, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his calls for Riyadh to explain what happened to the high-profile critic of the Saudi Arabian leadership. The Turkish president had struck a measured tone when pressed on Khashoggi, while allowing government officials and state media to drip-feed allegations. Details of the convoy were disclosed by the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper.

“We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible,” Erdogan said from Budapest. “The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying: ‘He has left.’”

He said he was personally following the case, but had no new evidence to table.

Senior officials in Ankara remain convinced that Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi Arabian state hit squad sent to Istanbul and who were lying in wait to abduct or kill Khashoggi when he arrived at the consulate last on Tuesday afternoon.

It was Khashoggi’s second visit to finalize his divorce, after being told the previous Friday that his papers were not in order. His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, had waited outside.

Flight records show that two Saudi Arabian airplanes arrived at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Tuesday and departed separately that same day, hours after Khashoggi was last seen.

Saudi Arabian authorities continue to say that they played no role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. They acknowledge that a “security delegation” was sent to Istanbul on Saturday, but have not offered a reason for the journey.

Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi, said that the 59-year-old told him he had been invited to return to Riyadh by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to act as an adviser. Khashoggi had sought assurances about his safety from friends in the US before visiting the consulate, and had asked Cengiz to contact Turkish authorities if he failed to emerge. She raised the alarm four hours later, by which time the convoy is believed to have left the consulate.

Turkey has an extensive system of motorway cameras that are regularly used to provide evidence in criminal probes. The disappearance has shocked many in Turkey and caused alarm in some quarters of Riyadh.

Calls for clarity from the international community mounted on Monday, with the US, Britain and France seeking explanations from Riyadh.

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