02:27 - Source: CNN
Search underway for body of Saudi journalist
Yalova, Turkey CNN —  

Police are searching a villa in northwest Turkey in connection with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Istanbul’s Chief Prosecutor’s office said Monday that the villa was searched because one of the Saudi suspects in the killing contacted a Saudi national who resides near Samanli the day before Khashoggi was murdered.

“We believe this contact was about how to dispose of Jamal Khashoggi’s body parts following its dismemberment. Therefore, police teams together with the prosecutor’s office have carried out searches on November 26th,” the prosecutor’s office said in a written statement.

A CNN team on the scene saw dogs search the grounds while forensic teams in white suits moved in and out of the building.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, officers searched a well in the garden Monday and used sniffer dogs and drones to help.

The villa is in the village of Samanli, in Yalova province in the Marmara region, about 56 miles south of Istanbul. Last month President Erdogan mentioned Yalova as one of the areas a group of Saudis scouted before Khashoggi was killed.

A local official and Turkish pro-government media said the villa was owned by a Saudi national. The CNN team saw two large portraits of the Saudi King and Crown Prince inside the property.

Investigators and forensic teams left the property after a 10-hour search and it was unclear if they had gotten any leads or if they would be returning Tuesday.

CNN is not naming the suspect or the Saudi national as we have not confirmed their identities independently.

This is the first search law enforcement officials have made public since locations were searched last month, including the Saudi consulate, the consul general’s residence and a forest on the outskirts of Istanbul.

Journalist’s remains have not been found

Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the country’s government, went missing in early October after he visited the country’s Istanbul consulate to obtain papers for his impending marriage.

Two weeks ago, the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s Office said 11 people had been charged in his killing, with five facing the death penalty for direct involvement in “ordering and executing the crime.”

The journalist was killed following “a fight and a quarrel” at the Saudi consulate, according to the prosecutor’s office. His killers tied him up and injected him with a fatal overdose of a sedative. Then, prosecutors say, they dismembered his body and five removed it from the consulate.

Police have not found Khashoggi’s remains.

Riyadh has maintained that neither of the country’s leaders, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, knew of the operation.

But intelligence officials, lawmakers and analysts familiar with the kingdom say an operation of this nature and scale would have required awareness and direction from the crown prince, who controls all the country’s security services.

Last week, US President Trump came under fire from Turkey for turning a “blind eye” to the high-profile murder.

During a Thanksgiving call with US troops, Trump undermined the CIA’s assessment that the crown prince had personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

“This approach is wrong,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk.

“In a way, Mr. Trump’s statement means ‘Come what may, I will turn a blind eye on this,’ ” Cavusoglu said. “Money is not everything. We should not distance ourselves from human values.”