Gerard Butler explains why he canceled Saudi Arabia trip amid Khashoggi's disappearance

Turkish police leave Saudi consulate after 9-hour search for Khashoggi DNA traces

AFP Ozan Kose

Turkey's government has contacted USA officials, suggesting that they have the required video and audio proof to validate that the missing Saudi Arabian writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a Saudi government-backed gang in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo is to also meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Mohammed, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in The Washington Post and whose rise in power saw the writer go into a self-imposed exile in the U.S.

The controversy over the disappearance of Khashoggi, a USA resident who had been increasingly critical of the youthful crown prince, has dealt a huge blow to his efforts to showcase a reform drive and burnish the kingdom's image.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, pictured with fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio in Washington in 2014, described Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a "wrecking ball".

U.S. President Donald Trump, who dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh amid strained ties with its close ally, speculated that "rogue killers" may be responsible.

Saudi Arabia previously called the allegation "baseless", but reports suggest they may admit he died during a botched interrogation.

A Saudi official, not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters that the king had ordered an internal investigation based on information from the joint team in Istanbul.

The controversy meanwhile threw into doubt a $400 million deal the Saudi Public Investment Fund negotiated with Hollywood's most powerful talent agency as part of the crown prince's drive for a foothold in the entertainment industry.

Reports on Tuesday said Istanbul police would also search the Saudi consul's residence.

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On Tuesday, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official acknowledged police want to search the Saudi consul's home as well.

Mohammed al-Otaibi, the Saudi consul general, apparently left on a 2pm flight as security forces set up barricades outside his residence in the city.

Turkish investigators had been poised to enter the consulate for days, however the Saudis rescinded their offer of cooperation after the identities of a "hit squad" of 15 Saudis suspected of being involved in Khashoggi's murder were leaked to the press. He said US officials want to review any audio and video from Turkey relating to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and USA resident.

Turkey remains convinced journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate after discovering new evidence.

The New York Times said Prince Mohammed had approved an interrogation or abduction of Khashoggi and the government would shield him by blaming an intelligence official.

Speaking to the Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Trump again cited counterterrorism cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's contracts with US defense contractors.

Saudi officials have been in and out of the building since Khashoggi's disappearance without being stopped. Investigators said the search will take place Wednesday, according to state broadcaster TRT.

"We can't say anything about that if we allow Saudi Arabia to do it and all we do is a diplomatic slap on the wrist".

David Mack, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and a former ambassador, told VOA that what Saudi Arabia is accused of would be hard to get away with in the United States, but is possible for Saudi Arabia given its tight controls on the media and discipline instituted by the royal family. "I can never do business with Saudi Arabia again until we get this behind us".

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