Suspects in missing-journalist case had ties to Saudi crown prince

A still image taken from CCTV video and obtained by TRT World claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul Turkey Oct. 2 2018. Reuters

The crown prince and his father, King Salman, have denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts, repeatedly asserting that he left the consulate freely.

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The New York Times has gathered more information about the suspects using facial recognition software, publicly available records, social media profiles, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents and in some cases the accounts of witnesses in Saudi Arabia and countries the crown prince has visited.

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"In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch", said Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

"Do this outside. You will put me in trouble", al-Otaibi, the consul, told them, according to the Turkish official and the report in Yeni Safak, both citing audio recordings said to have been obtained by Turkish intelligence. There has been no such correction.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the authoritarian kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and his body removed.

President Donald Trump with Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

USA media outlets have reported that Riyadh, despite its earlier denials of involvement, will acknowledge he was killed in a botched interrogation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the Saudi royal family on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Adding to embarrassment for the petro-state's royals, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde became the latest to pull out of Prince Mohammed's much-trumpeted investment conference next week.

The president said the truth would come out "by the end of the week".

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The reluctance of the Turks to turn over hard evidence they have said they have documenting Khashoggi's fate has led USA and European security officials to assess that the most brutal accounts of Khashoggi's demise are likely accurate, the sources said.

"Hope we're going to be on the better side of the equation, you know we need Saudi Arabia in terms of our fight against all of the terrorism, everything that's happening in Iran and other places, but Iran's been the leader", Trump said.

Pompeo's tone on the Saudi-led investigation is stronger than last week when he released a statement calling for Saudi Arabia to "support a thorough investigation" and "to be transparent about the results of that investigation".

A fifth is a forensic doctor who holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment, a figure of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority.

"If a country engages in activity that is unlawful it's unacceptable", he said.

President Donald Trump's previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon.

Turkey has not shared with the USA government or European allies graphic audio or video evidence, seven US and European security officials told Reuters.

In separate remarks Wednesday, both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued their effort to create time for leaders in Riyadh to provide an explanation for Khashoggi's disappearance after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

In an interview with Fox News, a prominent Trump ally in the Senate called on Saudi Arabia to reject the crown prince, known as MBS, who rose to power a year ago and has aggressively sought to soften the kingdom's image overseas and attract foreign investment.

Turkish police have arrived at the residence of the Saudi consul in Istanbul to conduct a search over the disappearance and alleged slaying of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Before leaving Riyadh, Pompeo said the kingdom promised a "transparent investigation".

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