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Turkey concludes Saudi journalist Khashoggi killed by ‘murder’ team, sources say


Kareem Fahim, The Washington Post


ISTANBUL — Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday.

Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” said one of the people. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
They offered no specific evidence to back up the account. But earlier Saturday, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency said the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office had opened a probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia had vehemently denied that Khashoggi was detained after he entered the consulate.
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Khashoggi had left the consulate shortly after he arrived on Tuesday. Saudi officials have yet to provide any evidence for that assertion.
Khashoggi’s disappearance has drawn attention to Prince Salman’s crackdowns on his critics. It also threatened to deepen a rift between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both regional powers that have competed for influence in the region.
Khashoggi, who writes for The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, visited the consulate Tuesday to obtain documents related to his upcoming wedding, according to his fiancee and friends.     
The killing, if confirmed, would mark a stunning 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, business executives and even women’s rights advocates.
But analysts said Khashoggi might have been considered especially dangerous by the Saudi leadership because he was not a longtime dissident, but rather 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.
Over the last year, Khashoggi had repeatedly criticized the Saudi leadership, including the arrests of female right’s activists who had campaigned to allow women the right to drive.
In his Bloomberg interview, Mohammed acknowledged the scale of the arrest campaign, saying that about 1,500 people had been detained over the past three years, but he portrayed the suspects as national security threats rather than political opponents.
“Most of their cases have nothing to do with freedom of speech and most of them will return to their homes when the process is finished,” he said.

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