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Jamal Khashoggi case: Turkey cops leave Saudi Arabia consulate after nine hours probe, says witness

Jamal Khashoggi case: Turkey cops leave Saudi Arabia consulate after nine hours probe, says witness
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A team of Turkish police investigating the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in...

A team of Turkish police investigating the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, spent more than nine hours in the building, a Reuters witness said.

A crime scene investigation team of around 10 people left the consulate after completing a search early on Tuesday, the witness said.

Khashoggi, a US resident, Washington Post columnist and leading critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after entering the consulate to get marriage documents. Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered there and his body removed.

Four forensic vehicles arrived outside the consulate and took away soil samples as well as a metal door from the garden, the Reuters witness said. A police dog was part of the search team.

A Turkish diplomatic source had earlier said that a joint Turkish-Saudi team would search the consulate - the last place Khashoggi was seen before he vanished on Oct. 2.

Trump speculated on Monday that "rogue killers" may have been behind the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet King Salman over the case.

Khashoggi, a US resident, Washington Post columnist and leading critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents. Turkish officials say they believe he was murdered there and his body removed.

Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that would say Khashoggi was killed as the result of an interrogation that went wrong, CNN reported on Monday, citing two unidentified sources. The Saudi government could not immediately be reached for comment on the CNN report.

The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the Saudi plans, reported that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government, it said, would shield the prince by blaming an intelligence official for the botched operation.

The case has provoked an international outcry against Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, with more media and business executives pulling out of a planned investment conference there this month.

While organizers said Monday the conference will go on, the Saudis cancelled an annual diplomatic reception in Washington set for later this week.

Many members of the US Congress, which has long had a testy relationship with Saudi Arabia, have issued strong criticism of the kingdom over the case.

Turkish authorities have an audio recording indicating that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, a Turkish official and a security source told Reuters, and have shared evidence with countries including Saudi Arabia and the United States. They provided no further details.

Saudi Arabia has strongly denied killing Khashoggi and has denounced such assertions as "lies", saying he left the building shortly after entering.

"The king firmly denied any knowledge of it," Trump told reporters after speaking with King Salman. "He didn't really know, maybe - I don't want to get into his mind but it sounded to me - maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?"

The U.S. president gave no evidence to support the theory.

Trump called his top diplomat on Sunday night and asked him to have face-to-face meetings with the Saudi leaders, according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "Determining what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is something of great importance to the president," she said.Pompeo will go to Turkey from Saudi Arabia, the White House National Security Council said.Turkish police investigators entered the Istanbul consulate late on Monday. A Turkish diplomatic source had earlier said a joint Turkish-Saudi team would search the building - the last place Khashoggi was seen before he vanished on Oct. 2.

"It has been 13 days since the event, so surely proving some of the evidence might be difficult, but we believe we will obtain evidence," the Turkish official said.

A Saudi official, not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters that the king had ordered an internal investigation based on information from the joint team in Istanbul.

King Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday evening and stressed the importance of the two countries creating a joint group as part of the probe.

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