ISTANBULinfo-icon --  Turkeyinfo-icon has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabiainfo-icon, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this week by a Saudi team sent "specifically for the murder," reports said on Saturday.

"The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate," a Turkish official told Reuters news agency on Saturday.

The suspected assassination of the leading critic of the Saudi regime came four days after he entered the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Authorities say they believe Khashoggi's death was premeditated.

Earlier on Saturday, Al Jazeera reported that a delegation of 15 Saudi officials arrived in Turkey the day Khashoggi, 59, disappeared.

"The Saudi officials flew into Istanbul on two different flights on Tuesday," the report quoting Turkish intelligence said. 

In an evening of quickfire developments, following four days of silence since his disappearance, officials in Ankara pledged to on Sunday release evidence that they say supports claims that the journalist was killed shortly after he entered the consulate.


The revelations came after Saudi Arabia failed to back its claim that Khashoggi left the consulate on Tuesday.

The dramatic Turkish claim instead squarely focuses attentions on Riyadh, in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who on Friday denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts. "If he was here, I would know about it," the 33-year-old heir to the throne told Bloomberg.

"My understanding is, he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour," said Prince Mohammed. "I'm not sure. We are investigating this through the foreign ministry to see exactly what happened at that time.

The conflicting accounts appeared certain to deepen a rift between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both regional powers that have competed for influence in the region.

The president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to release a statement about the incident on Sunday. Aside from summonsing the Saudi ambassador in Ankara, senior officials had remained mute about the Khashoggi's fate, leading to speculation that he had been smuggled out of the country with Turkish consent.


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, businessinfo-icon 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 Washington Post for which Khashoggi wrote, 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 Eastinfo-icon and throughout the worldinfo-icon. We have been enormously proud to publish his writings." 

Khashoggi may have been considered especially dangerous by the Saudi leadership, analysts said. His criticisms of the royal family and its vast powers were delivered from his self-imposed exile in the United Statesinfo-icon and could not be dismissed as the complaints of a longtime dissident.

Rather, he has long been a pillar of the Saudi establishment who was close to its ruling circles for decades, had worked as an editor at Saudi news outlets and had been an adviser to a former Saudi intelligence chief.

According to Hatice Cengiz , Khashoggi's Turkish fiancee, dissident journalist had sought assurances about his safety from Saudi officials before entering the consulate to sign the divorce papers, a necessary step for him to remarry. She was waiting for him outside when Khashoggi had entered the consulate's premises at around 1pm (10:00 GMT) on Sep 28 to secure paperwork.

He returned to the consulate on Tuesday, at about 1:30 p.m., concerned that he might not be allowed to leave, according to Cengiz.

Khashoggi left his phone with her, along with instructions that she should call a member of Turkey's governing party if he did not emerge. After waiting more than four hours, Cengiz called the police, she said.  


In Turkey, Khashoggi's disappearance, and the allegation that his government was responsible, has sparked fears among the many political dissidents from Arab countries who have settled in the country over the past few years and previously felt secure, according to a Saudi dissident living in Istanbul.  

"It's a new era," he said.