Khashoggi was dismembered as Saudi operatives listened to music, report claims

Donald Trump said that blaming Saudi Arabia is another case of “guilty until proven innocent”. AP

President Donald Trump tweeted his full-throated support of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who insists he was totally unaware his operatives sent to interrogate and kidnap Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi meant to kill him and cut up his body to get him out of the country in diplomatic pouches.

The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the Saudi plans, reported the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

But some US lawmakers have all but accepted Turkey's version of the events, that a team of Saudi agents arrived in Istanbul and killed Khashoggi when he went to the consulate to pick up documents he needed to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national who waited in vain for Khashoggi to emerge from the consulate.

Members of the US Congress, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, are among the loudest voices in the United States demanding answers and action on Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who moved to Washington a year ago fearing retribution for his critical views.

Turkish investigators began to search the consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening, but earlier in the day a cleaning crew was seen entering the consulate, according to The Washington Post.

After speaking with the king, Trump floated the idea that "rogue killers" may have been responsible for the disappearance.

Mr. Trump spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Monday morning in a 20-minute phone call.

"The Saudis claimed that the consul's family was inside", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

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Turkish police have identified five suspects - four of whom have ties to the Saudi crown prince - in the investigation launched into the disappearance and alleged murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a USA media report.

Meanwhile President Trump said Tuesday that he has spoken to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the kingdom steadfastly denies any involvement in Khashoggi's suspected murder.

Bin Salman was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Saudi Arabia during that call.

Turkish police believe he was killed by a special team of 15 Saudi officials, but Riyadh has dismissed the claim as "baseless". "We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned". And I think that's a reasonable thing to do, to give them that opportunity, and then we'll all get to judge.

Mohammed al-Otaibi, the Saudi consul general, apparently left on a 2pm flight as security forces set up barricades outside his residence in the city. He said Saudi Arabia originally pledged its contribution in August, and USA officials were expecting to receive it by the fall.

On Monday, Pompeo met with the Saudi royal, releasing a statement that night saying, "I emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation, and the Saudi leadership pledged to deliver precisely on that".

"He said it very strongly", Trump said when pressed to say whether he believed the Saudi king.

"The king has ordered the public prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the information from the joint team in Istanbul", an official quoted by Reuters news agency said.

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