USA ramps up pressure on Saudis over missing journalist

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The kingdom dismisses the allegation as "baseless".

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Washington Post contributor, vanished on October 2 after entering the consulate to obtain official documents ahead of his marriage to his Turkish fiancé. President Trump needs to raise this case immediately with Saudi Arabia and Turkey and demand answers.

It's not clear from the intercepted communications if the Saudis planned to abduct or kill Khashoggi and whether the USA had warned the Saudi journalist.

Anadolu reported that on October 2, Turkish officials had searched a private jet that came from Saudi Arabia and its passengers but did not find anything. Erdoğan had previously said that Saudi officials "cannot escape responsibility by simply saying that he left".

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which ranks the kingdom 169th out of 180 on its World Press Freedom Index, said in a statement that between 25 and 30 professional and non-professional journalists are now detained in Saudi Arabia. Bob Corker of Tennessee that they "only livestream their tapes".

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his department called on Saudi Arabia to "support a thorough investigation. and to be transparent about the results".

Senators Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday demanding a probe of Khashoggi's disappearance under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

The pro-government daily Sabah splashed the pictures of 15 men, which it called an "assassination squad", providing also their names and years of birth. Twelve of them arrived early on Tuesday, based on photos captured at passport control which it published. The report did not cite a reason for the request, but any foot-dragging on the part of the Saudis will only reinforce suspicions that a crime is being covered up. Both hotels declined to comment on the report. The journalist was planning to remarry, and he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document showing that he was legally divorced from his ex-wife. The detailed information appeared to have been leaked to the newspaper by Turkish intelligence. His fiancee and friends have said he did not leave the building. No one has produced any such footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.

About two hours later Aksam showed two vehicles, one of them a black Mercedes Vito van with tinted windows and diplomatic plates, leaving the consulate and entering the auto park of the residence shortly afterwards.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that he told the Saudi ambassador the Khashoggi's disappearance could lead the U.S. to curtail arms sales to the kingdom. At the same time whether its steps they've taken in the region, this in particular., we need to push back on activities like this if they have occurred.

"I would normally prefer not to address such outrageous claims, especially when it concerns the well-being of a missing citizen who dedicated a great portion of his life to serve his country", Khalid bin Salman said in a statement.

Karen Elliott House, a veteran writer on Saudi affairs and chair of the board of trustees at RAND Corp., said USA support for the Yemen war is likely to be the focus of congressional criticism but won't endanger a relationship that has endured for decades, underpinned by shared strategic interests.