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Istanbul prosecutor seeks arrest of Saudi officials over Khashoggi killing

Warrants say there is 'strong suspicion' of involvement

A woman takes part in a protest opposing the visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Tunis, Tunisia, November 27, 2018. File photo: Reuters

A woman takes part in a protest opposing the visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Tunis, Tunisia, November 27, 2018. File photo: Reuters

Updated 10.15am

Istanbul's chief prosecutor has filed warrants for the arrest of a top aide to Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler and the deputy head of foreign intelligence on suspicion of planning the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, two Turkish officials said on Wednesday.

The prosecutor's office has concluded there is "strong suspicion" that Saud al-Qahtani and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who were removed from their positions in October, were among the planners of the October 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the officials said.

"The prosecution's move to issue arrest warrants for Asiri and Qahtani reflects the view that the Saudi authorities won't take formal action against those individuals," one of the Turkish officials said.

The move also comes a day after senior US senators said they were more certain than ever that Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the killing of Khashoggi after receiving a CIA briefing on the matter. Senior US senators said they were more certain than ever that Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the killing

Making some of their strongest accusations so far, both Republicans and Democrats said they still want to pass legislation to send a message to Saudi Arabia that the United States condemns the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.

But President Donald Trump and some of his fellow Republicans have argued that Washington should not take action that would risk its relationship with Riyadh, which is viewed as an important counterweight to Iran in the Middle East.

"The international community seems to doubt Saudi Arabia’s commitment to prosecute this heinous crime. By extraditing all suspects to Turkey, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, the Saudi authorities could address those concerns," the Turkish official said.

Khashoggi was killed after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October2. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the order for Khashoggi's killing came from the highest level of the Saudi government but probably not King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on Salman's heir and de facto ruler Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

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