Photos surface of Saudis allegedly sent to target writer

This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, a week after he vanished during a visit there. (CCTV/Hurriyet via AP)
Activists, members of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holding posters with photos of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talk to members of the media, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. The poster reads in Turkish: ' Jamal Khashoggi, missing since October 2, 2018'. Khashoggi disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate to obtain paperwork required for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish officials have alleged he was killed in the compound while Saudis officials said he left the building unharmed. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Security guards stand outside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the consulate as it investigates why journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, vanished there Oct. 2, an extraordinary probe of a diplomatic post amid Turkish officials' fears the writer had been killed inside the building. Saudi officials said he left the building unharmed.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ISTANBUL — A newspaper close to the Turkish president published photos Wednesday of what it said was a 15-member "assassination squad" allegedly sent to target Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate, allegations rejected by Saudi Arabia, which says he left the premises. Turkey has been given permission to search the diplomatic post, an extraordinary development that shows the increasing international pressure the kingdom faces over Khashoggi's disappearance.

The report by the Sabah newspaper, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published images of the men apparently taken at passport control. It said they checked into two hotels in Istanbul on Oct. 2, the day Khashoggi went missing, and left later that day.

Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia's assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has led a widely publicized drive to reform the Sunni monarchy but has also presided over the arrests of activists and businessmen.

On Wednesday, the Post published a column by Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She acknowledged the writer first visited the consulate on Sept. 28 "despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger." He later returned Oct. 2 after being promised needed paperwork so the two could be married.

A surveillance video image surfaced Tuesday showing Khashoggi walking into the consulate in Istanbul's upscale 4th Levent neighborhood. No evidence of him leaving the consulate has been made public, but Turkish officials also have yet to provide evidence he was kidnapped or killed.

"At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal's disappearance," Cengiz wrote. "I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate."

She added: "Although this incident could potentially fuel a political crisis between the two nations, let us not lose sight of the human aspect of what happened."

Khashoggi had sought to become a U.S. citizen after living in self-imposed exile since last year, fearing repercussions for his criticism of the prince, Cengiz wrote.

Trump, who took his first overseas trip as U.S. president to the kingdom and whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has close ties to Prince Mohammed, said Tuesday he had not yet talked to the Saudis about Khashoggi, "but I will be at some point," without elaborating.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were "open to cooperation" and would allow the consulate building to be searched. It's unclear when such a search would take place.

Embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to reassure its Western allies and the international community.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey, and Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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