Jamal Khashoggi: Forest near Istanbul searched in hunt for remains

18 October 2018, 21:07 | Updated: 19 October 2018, 12:06

Investigators are searching a forest outside Istanbul in a bid to find the remains of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The search is taking place after they apparently tracked cars leaving the Saudi consulate on the day he disappeared.

Mr Khashoggi has not been seen since going into the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Turkish media claim authorities have audio that shows he was tortured and murdered in the building after a 15-man Saudi "hit squad" entered the country.

Donald Trump said on Thursday that it "certainly looks" like the journalist is dead.

When asked what the consequences should be if the Saudi regime is found to have ordered his murder, President Trump said: "Well, it'll have to be very severe. I mean, it's bad, bad stuff, but we'll see what happens."

But Mr Trump said he was still waiting on the outcome of several investigations before drawing any conclusions.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo met Saudi rulers and Turkey's president earlier this week after Mr Trump had suggested rogue killers may have been to blame following a call with King Salman.

Critics accused the president of being weak and giving the Saudi regime a potential way out if they did sanction the murder of Mr Khashoggi.

Mr Pompeo said on Thursday that the Saudis should get "a few more days to complete" to complete their investigation before deciding if and how the US should respond.

CCTV pictures show Mr Khashoggi entering the consulate to get documents so he could marry his Turkish wife - but he was not seen leaving and has not been heard from since.

He had been living in the US after criticising Saudi's authoritarian rulers and was writing for the Washington Post.

Reports earlier this week suggested the Saudis were preparing to admit that Mr Khashoggi had died in a botched interrogation.

However, they have so far only said they are concerned about their missing citizen, and continue to take part in an investigation into his disappearance at the consulate and the Saudi consul's house.

Pro-government media in Turkey have published claims - said to come from sources working on the case - that detail how Mr Khashoggi was allegedly beaten, had his fingers cut off and was dismembered by a medical expert.

One of the Saudis caught on CCTV entering the consulate shortly before Mr Khashoggi arrived has also been identified as part of a security team that has protected Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb is reported to have left the country on a private jet later the same day.

International concern over the case has led to many business and political figures pulling out of an upcoming conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The UK's trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox, and US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin are the latest to scrap their visit next week.

The Washington Post has now published the last article Mr Khashoggi wrote for them.

In it, he argues for more freedom for the press in the Arab world and warns about the ruling class not being held accountable for trying to silence critical journalists.

"These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community," Mr Khashoggi writes.

"Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence."