One of the people suspected of being involved in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been identified as a frequent travel companion of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to sources cited by The New York Times on Tuesday.
At least at nine of the 15 people identified by Turkish authorities are belived to have worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries, The Times said.
The Times uncovered information on the reported suspects named by Turkey using facial recognition software, publicly available records, social-media profiles, a database of Saudi cell phone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents and witness accounts the newspaper said in its bombshell report.
According to The Times, one of the people named by Turkish authorities, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has been photographed on trips with the Crown Prince this year, during his visits to Paris, Madrid, Boston, Massachusetts, and Houston, Texas. Photos show him standing guard with the prince’s entourage during major trips abroad.
Mutreb was also identified as a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, the Times said, according to a British diplomatic roster.
Turkish officials released a photo of Mutreb at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and named him as part of a team of 15 Saudi agents reportedly sent in to confront Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where he was last seen on October 2, the report said.
According to The Times, three other people have been linked to the Crown Prince’s security detail, two of whom were reportedly members of the Saudi royal guard. A fifth person has been named by several reports as Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensic doctor who specializes in autopsies and who held a senior Saudi Interior Ministry position.
While members of the crown prince’s security team may not report directly to him and may have been led on the mission to Istanbul by other senior intelligence officials, the presence of an autopsy expert and senior figure in the Saudi medical establishment suggests that al-Tubaigy would have been directed only by a high-ranking authority figure.
Al-Tubaigy’s alleged involvement also provides insight into whether the reported ambush and murder of Khashoggi was preplanned.
Saudi officials have repeatedly and vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, and have previously stated, without providing any proof, that Khashoggi left the embassy shortly after he arrived. Turkish officials have claimed that Khashoggi was murdered by a 15-man hit squad who flew in and out of Istanbul in the hours surrounding the journalist’s disappearance.
On Monday, US President Donald Trump suggested “rogue killers” could be responsible for the 59-year-old journalist’s disappearance, without providing evidence. But a report from CNN also released Monday indicated that the Saudi government is preparing to a release a report claiming that Khashoggi was killed as a result of a botched interrogation.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested the Saudis might have covered up Khashoggi’s murder as investigators found surfaces newly painted over, which could indicate an attempt to conceal evidence.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated denials from the Saudi leadership and asserted that those officials are working to “ensure accountability” for the events surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance.