WASHINGTON • A suspect identified by Turkey in the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of the kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The New York Times has reported.
Three other suspects are linked to Prince Mohammed's security detail and a fifth is a high-level forensic doctor, the Times said on Tuesday.
The account, and a similar report in The Washington Post, could raise doubts about US President Donald Trump's claim that "rogue killers" might have been responsible for Mr Khashoggi's disappearance.
Mr Trump made the comment after he said Saudi King Salman strongly denied to him any knowledge of what happened.
Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi national who contributed to The Post and criticised policies of King Salman's son Crown Prince Mohammed, has not been seen since Oct 2, when he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.
Turkish government sources have said the police believe the journalist was killed by a special team of 15 Saudi officials sent to Istanbul especially for the task. Riyadh insists that he left the consulate safely.
The Times said it confirmed that at least nine of the 15 worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries. The newspaper said it gathered more information about the suspects through facial recognition software, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, leaked Saudi government documents, witnesses and media.
NAMED AS SUSPECTS
• Mr Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb: Diplomat assigned to the Saudi embassy in London in 2007. Has been photographed with Crown Prince Mohammed on recent trips to Madrid and Paris.
• Mr Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi: Member of the security team that travels with Prince Mohammed.
• Mr Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi and Mr Muhammed Saad Alzahrani: Have the same names as two who have been identified as members of the Saudi Royal Guard.
• Dr Salah al-Tubaigy: An autopsy expert who identified himself on his Twitter account as the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics.
One suspect, Mr Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi embassy in London in 2007, it said, citing a British diplomatic roster.
Mr Mutreb, perhaps a bodyguard, has been photographed emerging from planes with Prince Mohammed on recent trips to Madrid and Paris, the newspaper reported.
The Times said three other suspects are Mr Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi - a member of the security team that travels with Prince Mohammed - Mr Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, and Mr Muhammed Saad Alzahrani. Mr Al-Harbi and Mr Alzahrani have the same names as two people who have been identified as members of the Saudi Royal Guard, the Times said.
The fifth suspect is an autopsy expert, Dr Salah al-Tubaigy, who the Times said identified himself on his Twitter account as the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics.
He also held high positions in the Interior Ministry and the kingdom's top medical school, the report said.
In its separate report late on Tuesday, the Post said 11 of the 15 people which Turkey alleged were involved in Mr Khashoggi's killing have ties to the Saudi security services, including some who claim to be with the Royal Guard.
With chilling details, Turkey's pro-government daily Yeni Safak reported yesterday Mr Khashoggi's alleged killers tortured him during interrogation by cutting his fingers off, claiming it had heard multiple recordings. It added that Mr Khashoggi was then decapitated.
According to Yeni Safak, Saudi Arabia's consul to Istanbul, Mr Mohammed al-Otaibi, can be heard on one tape saying during Mr Khashoggi's torture: "Do this outside. You are going to get me in trouble."
The daily reported that in another tape, an unknown individual tells Mr Otaibi: "If you want to live when you come to Saudi Arabia, be quiet!"
The Middle East Eye website quoted a Turkish source saying that Mr Khashoggi's death took seven minutes with Dr Tubaigy beginning to cut the body "while Khashoggi was still alive". Dr Tubaigy reportedly listened to music during the killing.