Published: Sun, October 14, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Fate of Saudi journalist tests US-Saudi relationship

Fate of Saudi journalist tests US-Saudi relationship

ISTANBUL-Turkish media published images Wednesday of an alleged 15-member Saudi "assassination squad" and video of suspicious movements at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul following journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance a week ago, putting new pressure on the kingdom amid growing global concern for the writer.

Turkish officials believe the prominent critic of the Saudi government was assassinated inside the building. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.

"It's a very serious situation for us and this White House", he said.

Turkey said Tuesday it would search the Saudi Consulate. "We can't let this happen". He had entered a Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul to get marriage paperwork as his fiancee waited outside and hasn't been seen since.

"I recognised his photograph immediately", said Ghanem al-Dosari, a Saudi satirist living in exile in London, who knew Mr Mutreb socially. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which ranks the kingdom 169th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index, said in a statement that between 25 and 30 professional and non-professional journalists are now detained in Saudi Arabia.

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi vanished October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and was dismembered.

Meanwhile, investigators are turning their focus towards the underground garage of the Saudi consul general's home, where the cars thought to have carried Khashoggi are believed to have to have been driven immediately after they left the nearby consulate.

After Trump spoke, the White House said national security adviser John Bolton and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the matter on Tuesday.

Mr Trump, who took his first overseas trip as United States president to the kingdom and whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has close ties to Prince Mohammed, said he had not yet talked to the Saudis about Khashoggi. He also said the USA was working "very closely" with Turkey, "and I think we'll get to the bottom of it".

Turkey says it will conduct a search of the Istanbul consulate, while Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry said the country was "open to co-operation" and a search of the building could go ahead.

The desperate fiancee of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is begging President Trump and the First Lady for help in finding her husband.

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However, they still have to be mindful of the need for Saudi cooperation on USA foreign policy goals, including Middle East peace, oil supplies, and missile defense system sales, analysts said. "When I hear of the arrest of a friend who did nothing that (deserved being) arrested, it makes me feel I shouldn't go", he told the BBC.

The Post reported Wednesday evening that USA intelligence intercepts outlined a Saudi plan to detain Khashoggi.

The disappearance of the acclaimed columnist and senior adviser to previous Saudi regimes has rocked Washington, where he had been based for the past year as a columnist for the Washington Post, and struck fear through establishment circles in Riyadh, where the 59-year-old had been a popular figure.

Britain's foreign minister called for urgent answers and the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, who has seen classified intelligence on the case, said information pointed to Khashoggi being killed.

"I think that would be hurting us", Mr. Trump said.

A third appeared to be a special forces soldier who worked as a bodyguard to Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump, the USA president, said he had raised Mr Khashoggi's case with Saudi Arabia "at the highest level" and a couple of times in recent days.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate the U.S. request for information.

In an interview later on Wednesday with Fox News, Mr Trump said he wanted to find out what happened to Mr Khashoggi but appeared reluctant to consider blocking arms sales, citing economic reasons. Riyadh has supported the administration's tough stance toward Iran, a key rival of Saudi Arabia in the volatile Middle East.

A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 8, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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