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Turkish investigators search Saudi consulate overnight in Khashoggi case

Forensic team earlier searched the consul's residence, including the roof and garden, leaving the building with several boxes
'Samples' were recovered from the consul's residence, sources in the prosecutor's office said, without elaborating (AFP)

Turkish investigators again searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul overnight as part of a probe into Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, as US President Donald Trump said he did not want to abandon his Saudi ally over the missing journalist.

The crime scene team left the Saudi consulate in the early hours of Thursday after searching the building and consular vehicles.

They used bright lights to illuminate the garden, although it was unclear what they were doing.

Earlier, investigators spent nearly nine hours in the Saudi consul's residence before leaving, as did Saudi investigators, the Reuters news agency reported.

Ece Goksedef, Middle East Eye's correspondent in Istanbul, said dogs were used in the search and investigators were seen leaving the building carrying several boxes.

"Samples" were recovered from the scene, sources in the prosecutor's office said, without elaborating.

The search by the Turkish team included the roof and garden and the deployment of a drone over the area.

Mohammed al-Otaibi, the Saudi consul, flew out of Istanbul for Riyadh on Tuesday.


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Khashoggi, a former Saudi insider who became critical of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wrote articles for titles including the Washington Post.

He has not been seen since he stepped inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish officials say they believe he was killed there and that his death was recorded.

At around 4.40pm (13:40 GMT) a team of a dozen police and prosecutors, including forensics experts in white overalls entered the residence of the consul, who was at the consulate when the alleged assassination of Khashoggi took place, according to Turkish media.

The investigators left the residence around 1.40am, with some of them heading to the nearby consulate to conduct a search, which continued into the early hours of Thursday.

Turkish police on Monday night carried out an eight-hour search at the consulate, taking away soil and DNA samples.

Trump demands digital evidence

Trump said on Wednesday he was waiting for a full report on what had happened to Khashoggi from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom he sent to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to meet officials over Khashoggi's disappearance.

Trump and Pompeo are scheduled to meet at 10am (14:00 GMT) on Thursday.

Trump, who has forged closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the 33-year-old crown prince, said the US has asked Turkey to supply any audio or video evidence.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he was pulling out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Khashoggi.

"I won't go to Riyadh next week," Le Maire told France's Public Senat TV channel, adding that "the current circumstances do not allow me to go to Riyadh".

The minister echoed French President Emmanuel Macron's remarks last week on Khashoggi's disappearance, calling it a "very serious" matter.

Dutch Finance Minister Wopka Hoekstra has also scrapped plans to attend the event, news agency ANP reported on Thursday, while the Dutch government has cancelled a trade mission to Saudi Arabia next month.

Le Maire and Hoekstra are among the first senior Western officials to pull out of the October 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will decide on Thursday whether to attend.

Seven minutes to kill Khashoggi

The latest searches come after MEE revealed new details of Khashoggi's murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday evening.

A Turkish source who listened to the audio recording told MEE that Khashoggi's murder lasted approximately seven minutes.

In the recording, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of the 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.

Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.

As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.

“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE.

To date, Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving.

However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.