Donald Trump has said US investigators are looking into how Jamal Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but made clear that whatever the outcome, the US would not forgo lucrative arms deals with Riyadh.
The president’s announcement raised concerns of a cover-up of evidence implicating Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in plans to silence the dissident journalist. Those fears were also heightened by an announcement that the Turkish and Saudi governments would conduct a joint investigation into the case.
The Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV network described the 15 suspects as “tourists” who had traveled to Istanbul by commercial plane.
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Senior Republicans in Congress, briefed on US intelligence, have meanwhile signaled they were prepared to force the US to take punitive action if Khashoggi was found to have been murdered by the Saudi regime.
“We’re being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday morning.
US officials could not confirm that US investigators were in Turkey, which has hitherto resisted US help. The state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said: “The US government has offered its support to the Turkish government to provide law enforcement assistance to the Turkish government.”