The 15 men were photographed at passport control at Ataturk Airport on 2 October (AFP)
US intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced that Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in journalist Jamal Khashoggis disappearance and likely death on 2 October, the New York Times reported late Wednesday.
Citing unidentified officials, the Times report said information leaked to the public – names and photos of 15 Saudis who travelled to Istanbul on 2 October as well as claims Turkey possesses audio recordings of Khashoggis death – is helping convince the US intelligence community that the crown prince, commonly known as MBS, was involved.
The intelligence agencies, however, noted that they do not know with an overwhelming degree of confidence whether MBS ordered Khashoggis death or intended to have him captured and returned to Saudi Arabia, nor have they been able to collect any direct evidence of his possible involvement, the report said.
Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.
Seven of the 15 men suspected of being involved in the case belong to MBSs personal security detail, a Middle East Eye report said on Wednesday.
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The suspects ate dinner at the Saudi consul-generals residence after killing Khashoggi inside the consulate, a source in the Istanbul Prosecutor Generals office told MEE on Wednesday after Turkish police finally gained access to the building.
The US intelligence agencies are currently preparing their assessment for President Donald Trump, the report said.
Trump could ignore the classified assessment, however, as he decides what policies he believes are in the American interest, or he may decide that he is unpersuaded by it, the Times reported.