The dissident’s chopped-off digits were presented to Mohammed bin Salman as proof of the mission’s success, it is claimed
Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s severed fingers were taken back to Saudi Arabia and presented to the kingdom’s ruling crown prince, it is claimed.
A hit squad that assassinated the Washington Post columnist chopped off his fingers when he was still alive and kept them as a macabre trophy, according to reports.
Dissident Mr Khashoggi’s chopped-off digits were put in a bag and flown to Riyadh on a private jet as proof of the mission’s success, it was said.
The claims emerged as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to reveal graphic details about the killing on Tuesday morning, promising to deliver the “naked truth” to parliament.
Mr Khashoggi, 59, was tortured and murdered by a hit squad, known as the Firqat el-Nemr, or Tiger Squad, that operates under the guidance and supervision of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Middle East Eye claimed.
It said the team of 50 highly skilled intelligence and military operatives was formed more than a year ago and is well-known to foreign intelligence services.
When the killers returned to Riyadh, it is claimed, they brought Mr Khashoggi’s fingers with them and presented them to the young heir to the Saudi throne, the Eye reported.
A source told the publication: “MBS always said that he will cut off the fingers of every writer who criticises him.”
Sources also told the Eye that Prince Mohammed’s bodyguard, intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, is alleged to have taken part of the journalist’s body out of Turkey in a large bag.
He left on a private jet the day of the murder and his bags were not checked as the plane left Ataturk airport, it was reported.
Mutrib, a former diplomat once posted to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London, is alleged to have placed seven calls to the crown prince’s private office the day of the murder.
Mr Khashoggi had written a number of articles critical of Saudi Arabia for the Middle East Eye under an anonymous byline because he feared for his life. Until his death, he wrote under his own name in the Washington Post.
The crown prince allegedly called Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi national who had been living near Washington, DC, shortly before the murder in a bid to convince him to return to the Middle Eastern country.
But the journalist refused over fears he would be killed, it was reported.
Saudi officials have claimed that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the operation and did not order it. The country has denied claims that the killing was planned.
Months before the murder, Mr Khashoggi met with the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US, in what was described as a friendly meeting at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, sources told NBC News.
Mr Khashoggi was visiting on a routine consular matter when he was summoned to Prince Khalid’s top-floor office, where the pair spent roughly half an hour together in late 2017 or early 2018, it was reported.
Prince Khalid was among the Saudi officials who had been contacting Mr Khashoggi for at least a year in a bid to persuade him to return, claiming he would be given a warm return and a high-level job, the sources said.
But Mr Khashoggi feared he was being lured into a trap and would be imprisoned or worse, and decided not to return, two friends told NBC News.
Reports claim Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Mohammed bin Salman, oversaw the torture and murder by giving orders over Skype.
He allegedly ordered the operatives to bring him “the head of the dog”.
Mr Khashoggi was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 after he arrived to get documents for his upcoming marriage.
His Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting for him outside and reported him missing after he failed to emerge.
It is claimed that he was murdered and dismembered, and his body parts were removed from the building as part of a cover-up before the hit squad left the country on private jets.
Sources have told the Middle East Eye that Mr Khashoggi was killed by an injection of drugs, likely morphine, after being tortured.
The journalist’s remains have not been found. Turkish authorities have been searching a farm and a number of other sites.
It is claimed that one of the suspected killers left the consulate in Mr Khashoggi’s clothes to make it look like he was still alive and he had left on his own.
CCTV footage apparently shows Saudi operative Mustafa al-Madani, 57, in the victim’s shirt, jacket and trousers and wearing a false beard and glasses to look more like him.
It is also claimed that Saudi officials burned documents the day after the murder.
The US has sent CIA Director Gina Haspel to Turkey to help investigate the execution, as Erdogan prepares to address parliament on Tuesday.
Six US and Western officials told Reuters they believed the crown prince, who is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, was ultimately responsible for Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance because of his role overseeing the Saudi security apparatus.
But they said lacked hard proof.
Turkey is said to have audio recordings of the torture and murder, but the officials said neither the US nor its allies have been given the recordings.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Tuesday: “We did not share any evidence with any country, but there may be talks between the intelligence agencies.”
He also revealed that Saudi Arabia became more open to cooperation after a call between Erdogan and Saudi King Salman, the Daily Sabah reported.
The foreign minister said Saudi Arabia’s admission was important, although late, and it only confessed due to international pressure.