Evidence of killing 'found in consulate'

Police wait for forensic experts to arrive at a residence of Consul General of Saudi Arabia...
Police wait for forensic experts to arrive at a residence of Consul General of Saudi Arabia Mohammad al-Otaibi in Istanbul. Photo: Reuters
Police who searched the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul found evidence that Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed there, a high-level Turkish official said, as authorities prepared to search the consul's residence nearby after the diplomat left the country.

Security forces began setting up barricades in front of the residence just hours after Consul Mohammed al-Otaibi flew out of the country, state media reported. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the consul left the country, two weeks after Khashoggi disappeared at the diplomatic post he ran.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo smiled and shook hands during meetings in Riyadh with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in The Washington Post while in self-imposed exile in America.

Saudi officials have called Turkish allegations that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi "baseless," but reports in US media on Tuesday (local time) suggested the Saudis may acknowledge the writer was killed at the consulate, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation.

A high-level Turkish official told The Associated Press that police found evidence there of Khashoggi's slaying, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the investigation was ongoing.

Police planned a second search at the Saudi consul's home nearby. Leaked surveillance footage show diplomatic cars traveled to the consul's home shortly after Khashoggi's disappearance at the consulate on October 2.

In Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir greeted Pompeo when he landed. The former CIA chief didn't make any remarks to the media.

Soon after, Pompeo arrived at a royal palace, where he thanked King Salman "for accepting my visit on behalf of President (Donald) Trump" before the two went into a closed-door meeting.

Pompeo then met a smiling Prince Mohammed, the 33-year-old heir apparent to the throne of the world's largest oil exporter. Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia and took up a self-imposed exile in the United States after the prince's rise, and had written columns critical of his policies.

"We are strong and old allies," the prince told Pompeo. "We face our challenges together -- the past, the day of, tomorrow."

Trump, who dispatched Pompeo to speak to the monarch over Khashoggi's disappearance, said after talking with King Salman that the slaying could have been carried out by "rogue killers." Trump provided no evidence, but that statement appeared to offer the US-allied kingdom a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm.

"The king firmly denied any knowledge of it," Trump told reporters Monday. "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial."

Left unsaid was the fact that any decision in the ultraconservative kingdom rests solely with the ruling Al Saud family.

"The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to deescalate tensions," said Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group's Mideast and North Africa division.

"Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the journalist's disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the prominent journalist."

CNN reported that the Saudis were going to acknowledge the killing happened but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it. 
 

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