Evidence shows Khashoggi’s missing body is inside Saudi consul’s well: Authors
İpek Özbey - ISTANBUL
All evidence collected by Turkey point that the missing body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is inside the well of the garden of the Saudi consul’s house, after it was carefully placed there by the instructions of the “Tiger Team” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the writers of a new book on the murder say.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a prominent critic of Prince Mohammed, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After weeks-long denial of the murder and under international pressure, Saudi Arabia had finally detained 18 people, but the questions about the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body remain unanswered.
A book that was published in Turkey this week, called “Diplomatic Atrocity: Dark Secrets of the Khashoggi Murder,” compiled interviews with top Turkish officials to shed light on the crime.
According to the book’s writers Abdurrahman Şimşek, Nazif Kahraman and Ferhat Ünlü, “all evidence point to the well of the Saudi consul’s residence” in Istanbul. “Turkish officials believe that the body is in the well, but it could also be in some other place in the residence,” Karaman said.
Saudi Arabia had allowed Turkish officials to take a sample from the water in the well, which produced no results, but Riyadh insistently denied Ankara’s requests to empty the well and conduct a search inside it.
“The body could be placed inside the well after it was isolated from the water. For instance, they could have put it there inside a plastic bag. As such, it is still a strong probability that the body is in the well,” Şimşek explained, noting that Turkey was unable to raid the consular residence due to its diplomatic immunity stemming from the Vienna Convention.
The writers said they did not listen to the audio recordings of the killing, but were briefed for the book by the Turkish officials who did it.
According to the writers, the hit squad was directed by the associates of Prince Mohammed, known as the Tiger Team. After tracking Khashoggi and also conducting exploratory work at places like the Belgrad Forests north of Istanbul, the team pushed the button for the horrific operation.
The recordings reveal that the hit squad’s two senior names, Saudi intelligence officer Maher Mutreb and Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics head Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy talked in the consulate less than an hour before the murder.
“We will tell him them that we will take him to Riyadh. If he refuses, we will kill him here and get rid of the body,” they are heard as saying in the recordings.
The writers stressed that this part of the recording was “what convinced CIA director Gina Haspel when she first heard it, which triggered a deep silence in the room” during the meeting of intelligence officers in Ankara.
“British intelligence officers listened to the recording in Istanbul and their translators cried,” Karaman said.
What made the translators cry were the conversations and the horrific noises in the recordings after Khashoggi arrived in the consulate hoping to get his marriage documents as his Turkish fiancee waited outside.
“I will not go to Riyadh,” Khashoggi is heard telling the Saudi hit squad, who responded by holding him as the noise in the background suggests that metal tools, possibly sharp objects like knives, were put on the table in Saudi consul’s room.
When five people in the hit squad attacked him, Khashoggi is heard saying: “Don’t close my mouth. I have asthma. You will suffocate me,” which the Turkish writers describe as his last words.
Then Tubaigy starts to dismember the body after letting the blood flow into a bath tub. Apparently using an electric saw used in autopsies, the Saudi official finished the work in half an hour, sometimes ordering others to “bring a bag.”
“I know how to cut well. I’ve never worked on a warm body but I can also do it easily,” Tubaigy is also heard saying, while advising the others to listen to music, as it was previously reported.
The Mutreb-led hit squad was directed by the Tiger Team of Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, two Saudi officials close to Prince Mohammed.
Although Assiri and Qahtani were suspended from their official duties, they were not arrested.
The Turkish writers said that four more individuals, other than the 15-person hit team, had played a direct role in the murder.
Saudi intelligence station chief Ahmed Abdullah al-Muzayni, intelligence officers Saad Muid al-Qarni, Muflih Shaya al-Muslih and Abdulaziz Suleyman el-Ghumuzi were listed as these individuals.
“Muzayni was unaware that MİT [Turkish intelligence agency] was tracking him when he went to Istanbul’s Belgrad Forest on Oct. 1 with two other Saudi intelligence officers,” Şimşek said. “MİT had initially thought that their visit to the forest was as part of an espionage operation but they had later understood that it was actually conducted as a reconnaissance mission before the Khashoggi murder,” he said.
Turkish officials also question the ongoing Saudi investigation.
“One of our sources, which we named as the Deep Throat in the book, claimed that despite the Saudi statements, the suspects are not under arrest. We made a comprehensive research and confirmed that Tubaigy and his family are currently living in a villa with a swimming pool in Jeddah,” Şimşek said.