Turkey, Middle East

Alleged Saudi 'hit team' captured in video footage

CCTV from Oct. 1-3 shows 15 Saudi operatives arrive in Turkey hours before killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Can Erözden   | 19.12.2018
Alleged Saudi 'hit team' captured in video footage


By Halil Demi̇r


Newly accessed closed-circuit video from Oct. 1-3 shows the public movements of a 15-man team of Saudi operatives alleged to have killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Probing the high-profile case, Istanbul police and Turkish intelligence have been poring over some 3,500 hours of video from 147 cameras in 80 spots throughout the city, especially from Istanbul Ataturk Airport and the Levent and Sultanahmet neighborhoods.

In these images, the alleged Saudi hit team can be seen arriving in Turkey hours before the killing, entering the consulate and consular residence, and finally flying out of Turkey soon thereafter. 

The team arrives

Security sources told Anadolu Agency that the footage shows Saudi intelligence officer Mohammad Saad al-Zahrani, 30, Maj. Gen. Mansour Othman M. Abbahussain, 46, and intelligence officer Naif Hassan Saad al-Arifi, 32, landing at Ataturk Airport on Oct. 1 at 4.30 p.m. local time (1330GMT) and going to their hotel.

The footage also shows Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi, 31, a member of the Saudi crown prince’s security team, and intelligence officer Saad Meshal al-Bostani, 31, arriving at the airport on Oct. 2 at 1.30. a.m. (Oct. 1, 2230GMT).

That same day, another group landed at the airport at 3.30 a.m. (0030GMT): Lt. Col. Badr Lafi al-Otaibi, 45, royal guard Walid Abdullah al-Shihri, 38, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Mohammed M. Almadani, 57, Fahad Shabib A. Albalawi, 33, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, 47 -- a former diplomat and current intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- royal guard Thaar Ghaleb T. al-Harbi, 39, strategy, planning and communication expert Turki Musharraf M. Alshehri, 36, forensic doctor Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, 47, and Saud al-Qahtani, 45, a top aide to the crown prince.

Thereafter Mutreb, al-Harbi, al-Otaibi, al-Zahrani, Alshehri, Albalawi, Almadani, al-Qahtani, and Tubaigy -- along with Waleed Abdullah M. Alsehri, 38 -- arrived separately at the Saudi Consulate in Levent between 9.50 a.m. (0650GMT) and 10.57 a.m. (0757GMT).

Between 11 a.m. (0800GMT) and 12.30 p.m. (0930GMT), al-Hawsawi, al-Arifi, al-Bostani, and Abbahussain, along with Khalid Aedh G. Alotaibi, 30, separately entered the consulate's residence. 

After the killing

Almadani, accompanied by al-Qahtani, left the consulate via the back door at 2.53 p.m. (1153GMT). In an apparent effort to cover up the crime, Almadani was wearing clothes similar to Khashoggi's -- who himself entered the consulate at about 1.15 p.m. (1015GMT) before being killed -- and was wearing a fake beard and mustache. He was also carrying a black bag.

After taking a taxi to the Sultanahmet neighborhood, at 4.13 p.m. (1313GMT), the disguised Almadani went into a mosque bathroom to change clothes, before leaving at 4.29 p.m. (1329GMT).

Separately, after being loaded with several pieces of luggage, a minibus with the license plate 34 CC 1865 parked within the consulate grounds left the building around 3 p.m. (1200GMT). Investigators believe the bags held the remains of Khashoggi’s corpse, dismembered soon after his death. The minibus headed to the consular residence.

In the early evening, at 6.30 p.m. (1530GMT), al-Otaibi, Alsehri, Albalawi, Mutreb, al-Harbi, and Alshehri left Istanbul via private jet to return to Saudi Arabia.

Hours later, at 10.50 p.m. (1950GMT), al-Hawsawi, al-Otaibi, al-Zahrani, Abbahussain, al-Arifi, al-Bostani, and Tubaigy left Turkey on another private jet.

On Oct. 3, Almadani and al-Qahtani returned to Saudi Arabia at 1.30 a.m. (Oct. 2 at 2230GMT) via an Egypt-connecting flight.  

Investigation tampering

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later the Saudi administration admitted that he was killed there, blaming his death on "rogue" operatives.

Saudi officials frustrated the efforts of Turkish police and intelligence to carry out a detailed investigation at the consulate building and residence. Two toxicology experts and an expert chemist were allowed to tamper with the evidence before Saudi officials let Turkish authorities investigate these buildings.

Despite Turkish requests, Saudi Arabia has not allowed Turkey to investigate either the consulate garden or a well in the garden.

Turkey has sought fuller cooperation from Saudi authorities and has also spoken of opening an international inquiry. It has also demanded the extradition of suspects in the killing so they can face justice in Turkey.

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