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The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi: What happened before he vanished?

The journalist's fate has sparked intense speculation, including what Riyadh knows about his current whereabouts
In recent years Jamal Khashoggi had been a frequent critic of Saudi Arabia's rulers (AFP/Google)

The disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has made headlines around the world. At the time of writing, the Saudi national remains a missing man who has not been seen since he entered his country's consulate in Istanbul shortly after 1 pm on Tuesday 2 October.

Turkish officials have told Middle East Eye and other media organisations that investigators suspect Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate building, but have no evidence corroborating those suspicions have been made public.

Saudi officials have strenuously denied those allegations and say that Khashoggi left the building shortly after entering it. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their account, and say that security cameras were not working on the day Khashoggi visited the consulate.

Khashoggi was once part of the Saudi establishment. But in recent years he had become critical of the kingdom's rulers, and in September 2017 he moved to Washington amid fears of a new crackdown on dissenting voices. At the time of his disappearance he lived there in self-imposed exile, writing regular columns for the Washington Post newspaper.

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Describing his own journalism, Khashoggi refused to regard himself as an "opposition" dissident, and said: "I just want to be an independent writer... I'm just writing my views assuming that I am Saudi Arabian."

Information surrounding Khashoggi's disappearance is limited, but some details have emerged, mostly through leaks to media outlets in Turkey and elsewhere. What follows is a timeline leading up to the day that he vanished: times provided are local.

Fresh information from the past 48 hours is highlighted: the latest updates includes details of Khashoggi's movements on 1 October, events inside the consulate on 2 October and further details, including ranks, of some of the Saudi suspects.

Friday 28 September: Istanbul

Time unknown: Khashoggi goes to the Saudi consulate on Akasyalı Sk in Istanbul. He is planning to marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiancee, but first he needs to obtain paperwork from the Saudi authorities.

Officials at the consulate tell the journalist to return on Monday. Khashoggi flies to London on Friday evening.

Saturday 29 September: London

Morning: Khashoggi is one of the speakers at a MEMO (Middle East Monitor) conference about the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road.

Khashoggi tells the gathering that Saudi Arabia realises it has gone too far in promoting President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century" for the Middle East, and that it is now backing away as the plan has become a burning issue in the kingdom.

Later, Khashoggi is interviewed by the BBC World Service about the Middle East peace process. Off-air, he is asked about his own circumstances and whether he can return to Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi says: "People who get arrested are not even dissidents. They just have an independent mind."

The interviewer asks: "When do you think you will be able to go home again?" Khashoggi replies: "I don't think I will be able to go home."

Sunday 30 September: London

11.00: Khashoggi meets with his friend Saad Djebbar at The Fine Cheese Co in the upscale Belgravia neighbourhood.

Djebbar, an international lawyer based in London, has known Khashoggi for 22 years. "Jamal always came to me to help settle matters regarding Saudi institutions – businessmen, those who are loyal institutions or members," Djebbar later tells MEE.

The two chat at the shop for less than an hour. Djebbar says that a car then came to collect Khashoggi.

Monday 1 October: Istanbul

UPDATE Khashoggi meets with his friend Azzam Tamimi, a British Palestinian academic and chairman and editor in chief of Alhiwar TV Channel, and spends much of the day with him.

UPDATE 10pm: Khashoggi takes the last flight from Heathrow to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.

Tuesday 2 October: Istanbul

01.44-01.45: Three Saudi men pass through passport control at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport after arriving aboard a scheduled flight. Although the flight they were on is unknown, several inbound flights from Cairo landed shortly beforehand. They later check in at the Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levent on Buyukdere Cd in the Levent district, close to the Saudi consulate.

The Turkish authorities subsequently identify them as Meshal Saad M Albost, Khaled Aedh G Altaibi and Abdulaziz Muhammed M Alhawsawi. They are the first three of 15 Saudi nationals to arrive in Istanbul on that day who are later linked to Khashoggi's disappearance.

03.13: A private jet, with the tail registration HZ-SK2, arrives at Ataturk Airport from Riyadh via Cairo (below). On board are nine Saudi nationals.

03.38 - 03.41: The second group of Saudi nationals pass through passport control (below). Later they check in at the Movenpick Hotel Istanbul at Eski Buyukdere Caddesi No.3 in the Levent district, also near the Saudi consulate. The Turkish authorities later identify them as Salah Muhammad A Tubaigy, Turki Musharraf M Alsehri, Waleed Abdullah M Alsehri, Thaar Ghaleb T Alharbi, Maher Abdulaziz M Mutreb, Fahad Shabib A Albalawi, Badr Lafi M Alotaibi, Saif Saad Q Alqahtani and Mustafa Muhammed M Almadani.

Approx 12.45: Turkish staff at the consulate are told to take the day off.

UPDATE 13.14: Khashoggi enters the Saudi Arabian consulate at 6 Akasyalı Sk (below). It is the last time he is seen in public. Saudi officials subsequently say that Khashoggi left the building 20-30 minutes after he arrived.

Khashoggi leaves his iPhone with Cengiz as mobile devices are not allowed inside the consulate and tells her to raise the alarm if he fails to return after more than four hours.

An official greets Khashoggi as he enters by the door, and he is taken to the consul general's office, according to reports.

A Turkish source close to the investigation later tells Middle East Eye that Khashoggi was dragged from the consul general’s office by two men and onto the table of his study next door.

The source, who has listened in full to an audio recording of what happened, says: "The consul himself was taken out of the room. There was no attempt to interrogate him. They had come to kill him.” The source said Khashoggi stopped screaming when he was injected with an as yet unknown substance.

Tubaigy then begins to cut up Khashoggi’s body on the table while he is still alive, the Turkish source tells MEE, using earphones to listen to music and advising other members of the team to do likewise. “When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source tells MEE.

A Turkish source had told the New York Times that Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. He is listed as the president of the Saudi Fellowship of Forensic Pathology and a member of the Saudi Association for Forensic Pathology.

Saudi officials have strenuously denied allegations that Khashoggi was killed.

15.15: A convoy of six Saudi diplomatic cars leaves the consulate: four vehicles head for the consulate-general's residence, where they remain for several hours, while the other two head for a hotel. A black van with diplomatic number plates also departs at around the same time. It's destination is not known.

16.00: Cengiz becomes concerned and calls Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. She also contacts an organisation that represents the interests of Turkish journalists. CCTV (below) later shows her outside the Saudi consulate.

16.12 - 16.53: A group of three Saudi nationals pass through passport control at Ataturk Airport. They are understood to have arrived on a scheduled flight, possibly Saudia flight V263 from Riyadh, which landed at 1525. They check into the Wyndham Grand Hotel. They are subsequently identified by Turkish authorties as Naif Hassan S Alarifi, Muhammed Saad H Alzahrani and Mansur Othman M Abahuseyin.

17.15: A private jet, with the tail registration HZ-SK1, arrives at Ataturk Airport.

18.00: Cengizis is told by staff at the Saudi consulate that Khashoggi has already left the building.

18.20: Private jet HZ-SK1 leaves Ataturk Airport for Riyadh via Cairo. On board are six Saudi nationals.

20.00: Cengiz calls the police to report Khashoggi's disappearance.

22.46: Private HZ-SK2 leaves Ataturk, first for Dubai, then for Riyadh. On board are seven Saudi nationals.

Wednesday 3 October

00.18 - 00.20: The final two Saudi nationals pass through passport control at Ataturk Airport and leave on a scheduled flight.

The Saudi nationals

Saudi officials have strongly denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. They have yet to present any evidence to corroborate their comments and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.

The 15 Saudi nationals, whose faces were captured on CCTV at Ataturk Airport passport control, are:

From left to right (above)

  • Meshal Saad M Albost, born in 1987
  • Mustafa Muhammed M Almadani, born in 1961
  • UPDATE Mansur Othman M Abahuseyin, born in 1972. He is a brigadier general and has been a support officer (security and protection) for bin Salman.
  • UPDATE Maher Abdulaziz M Mutreb, born in 1971. A brigadier general and communications engineer, he has served as a security companion to bin Salman.
  • UPDATE Waleed Abdullah M Alsehri, born in 1980. He is a sergeant major and has been a security companion of bin Salman

From left to right (above)

  • Fahad Shabib A Albalawi, born in 1985
  • Thaar Ghaleb T Alharbi, born in 1979
  • Salah Muhammad A Tubaigy, born in 1971
  • Saif Saad Q Alqahtani, born in 1973
  • UPDATE Badr Lafi M Alotaibi, born in 1973. He is a colonel.

From left to right (above)

  • UPDATE Naif Hassan S Alarifi, born in 1986. He is a major and has been a support officer (security and protection) for bin Salman.
  • Abdulaziz Muhammed M. Alhawsawi, born in 1987
  • Muhammed Saad H Alzahrani, born in 1988
  • Khaled Aedh G Altaibi, born in 1988
  • Turki Muserref M Alsehri, born in 1982

Photo source: AFP/ Washington Post/Hatice Cengiz

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