Turkish officials suspected within hours of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance that he had likely been killed, CNN has learned.
Intelligence officials raced to the Istanbul airport where a private Saudi plane was waiting to take off — to try to find out whether he had been abducted or whether his body was being taken out of the country.
Multiple sources, supported by the findings of a police report, told CNN how Turkish officials responded after Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz raised the alarm just before 5pm on October 2 — three and a half hours after the journalist entered the consulate. At that time she was still waiting outside.
An adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told CNN that he’d received a call from Cengiz and immediately called government officials, including Turkish intelligence officers.
Slideshow by photo services
The adviser, Yasin Aktay, said that shortly before 6 p.m. he called the Saudi ambassador in Ankara, Waleed Al Khereiji, who told him he had not heard anything about Khashoggi. Aktay says the envoy seemed surprised by the call.
Sources tell CNN that the Turkish intelligence agency MIT decided to review an audio-visual feed from inside the consulate — a feed whose existence Turkey has not publicly acknowledged. The feed provided evidence of what had transpired in the consulate that afternoon: an assault and a struggle that ultimately led to Khashoggi’s death.
Once the tape had been analyzed, police at the airport were alerted to search a private Saudi plane at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. That plane — a chartered Gulfstream — was one of two jets that had flown from Riyadh earlier on October 2, carrying the Saudis allegedly involved in the operation. The other plane had taken off before investigators arrived.
Seven Saudi passengers were already waiting at the airport, according to a police account seen by CNN, including one with a diplomatic passport. Their suitcases had already been x-rayed and the officer who carried out the scan told the MIT officers that it would have identified any body parts inside the luggage.
At about 9 p.m. intelligence officers dressed as airport workers examined the interior of the plane. They found nothing suspicious and the passengers were allowed to board. The flight left at about 11 p.m. local time.
Both Ankara and Washington have hardened their stances as more and more evidence mounts about Khashoggi’s alleged killing.
On Thursday President Donald Trump said for the first time that he believes Khashoggi is no longer alive, saying repercussions if Saudi Arabia were found to have been involved in the Washington Post journalist’s killing would have to be “severe.”
The Trump administration has staked much of its policy agenda in the Middle East on a strong US-Saudi relationship, with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner forging a close personal relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
So what are we doing about it. The president has ordered the secretary of state Mike Pompeo to Mexico to discuss what to do about Honduran migration. Just great
*Part of this article is a reprint from CNN