Syringes, electro-shock devices and a blade similar to a scalpel were among the tools carried by Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killers as they departed Istanbul after murdering the Washington Post journalist inside a Saudi consulate last month.
But there was not yet any evidence of a bone saw that would have been required to dismember his body, according to a new report published on Tuesday.
The Turkish pro-government daily newspaper Sabah published photos purportedly showing tools carried by the 15-man Saudi hit squad as they left Istanbul aboard a private jet after allegedly murdering the Washington Post columnist.
The leaked photos, along with a flurry of other leaks from recordings taken of the moment’s before, during, and after Khashoggi’s murder, suggest a continued pressure on Saudi Arabia and its western allies over the 2 October killing of the 59-year-old US resident inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The New York Times on Tuesday cited unnamed officials describing one member of the Saudi kill team being recorded phoning Riyadh after murdering Khashoggi and saying “tell your boss,” in a possible reference to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is widely suspected of ordering the hit.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday became the first ranking UK. official to meet with the crown prince since the Khashoggi murder in what was described as an attempt to encourage Riyadh to wrap up the three-and-a-half-year war it is leading in Yemen and to “push for real accountability against those responsible for the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi”, according to a statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
A statement issued by the Saudi press agency did not mention Yemen or Khashoggi, but noted that the prince and Mr Hunt “reviewed Saudi-British partnership in all fields, the latest developments in the region and the exerted efforts towards them”.
Saudi officials and their western partners are bracing for the release of recordings that could further damage relations between Riyadh and its backers in world capitals. Turkey has been leaking details of the investigation in an attempt to keep the matter prominent in the world press and keep pressure on Riyadh, a regional rival it hopes to weaken.
On Monday, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau disclosed that Ottawa intelligence officials had heard the recordings, while Germany’s government spokesman acknowledged intelligence sharing between Ankara and Berlin on the Khashoggi matter, and a Turkish spokesman revealed the date that France was presented the recording and a transcript.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on his plane returning from Paris on Tuesday that Ankara had played the recordings for a Saudi intelligence official, who was shocked by its contents.
“The recording is really terrible,” he said, according to Sabah. “When the Saudi intelligence officer listened to it, he was so shocked that he said ‘[the perpetrator] must have done heroin. Only someone who did heroin could have done this.”
He said US president Donald Trump, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron had discussed the case over dinner in Paris. “I feel that they are considerably disturbed by the murder,” he said.
Ankara demands that members of a 15-man hit team and a three-person reconnaissance group allegedly involved in the killing be tried in Turkey. Khashoggi’s body has yet to be located, but Turks have alleged it was dismembered and dissolved in a chemical. Al Jazeera has cited Turkish officials claiming to have found traces of hydrofluoric acid in the wastewater of the Saudi consulate.
Despite holding diplomatic passports, the alleged murderers had to place their bags through an X-ray machine as they left Ataturk airport. Under Turkish rules, police at the airport are not allowed to search bags of diplomatic passport holders unless there is evidence of a serious offence, according to Hatice Han Er, an Istanbul criminologist and researcher. She added: “Everything has to go through an X-ray but nothing is opened unless police see a body part or something that creates suspicion of a major crime.”
Stills from the X-ray footage and published by Sabah showed the men boarding the flight were carrying 10 telephones and a wireless communications system, as well as two syringes, two electro-shock devices, a signal jammer, staplers and cutting tools.
The toolkit suggests a well-planned operation to potentially track Khashoggi, subdue him, possibly torture and interrogate him using the electro-shock devices, then dispose of his body, said Ms Han Er.
What I think was they drugged him and tied him up. When he came to, he may have been questioned. He might have been tortured and taunted
Hatice Han Er, criminologist
“Everything was planned beforehand; they weren’t going to walk up to the consulate unprepared,” she told The Independent. “What I think was they drugged him and tied him up. When he came to, he may have been questioned. He might have been tortured and taunted.”
Though staplers have been used to seal plastic bags containing Khashoggi’s body parts, Ms Han Er said the assassins would have needed a bone saw to cut him to pieces.