Khashoggi killing was planned says Turkish President

Khashoggi killing was planned says Turkish President

Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's President said the Saudis planned the murder and hinted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could be behind the "rogue" operation.

Erdogan said the whereabouts of Khashoggi's body was still unknown and he demanded Saudi Arabia reveal the identity of a "local cooperator" who purportedly took the body. Reuters file photo

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dropped a geopolitical bombshell on Tuesday during a speech in Parliament, saying there were strong signs Jamal Khashoggi's "savage" killing was planned and attempts to blame it on intelligence operatives "will not satisfy us".

Erdogan did not directly mention Saudi Arabia's leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who some U.S. lawmakers suspect ordered the killing. But he said Turkey would not complete its investigation into Khashoggi's death until all questions were answered. Riyadh has suggested it was a rogue operation, thereby leading people to believe that the Saudi establishment didn't orchestrate the affair.

"Intelligence and security institutions have evidence showing the murder was planned.... Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community," he said.

Erdogan said the whereabouts of Khashoggi's body was still unknown and he demanded Saudi Arabia reveal the identity of a "local cooperator" who purportedly took the body. The latest statement is only likely to increase geopolitical tensions in already tense Middle East and Central Asia.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, the kingdom's de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents.

Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the killing of the 59-year-old. Erdogan made no reference to any audio recording in his speech.

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate. That version of events was greeted sceptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world's biggest oil exporter.

Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before his killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission. The next day 15 people came to the consulate.

"Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?" Erdogan said.

Following the global outrage prompted by the journalist's disappearance, U.S. President Donald Trump's comments have varied from playing down Riyadh's role to warning of possible economic sanctions.

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Trump has also repeatedly highlighted the kingdom's importance as a U.S. ally and said Prince Mohammed was a strong and passionate leader.

For Saudi Arabia's allies, the question will be whether they believe that Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability. King Salman, 82, has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to the 33-year-old prince.