A pro-government Turkish newspaper on Wednesday published the names and photographs of a group of Saudi nationals who allegedly arrived in Istanbul on board two private jets the day journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, went missing.
Saudi officials strongly deny any involvement in the disappearance, and insist Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed that day.
The Sabah newspaper, which is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, identified the team members, including several alleged security officials, and published photos of each of them, apparently taken at passport control.
Worldwide media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday called for an independent global investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi - the Saudi journalist who has been missing since October 2 - saying his disappearance has come amid "a particularly harsh and opaque crackdown on Saudi journalists and bloggers".
A human rights activist holds picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018.
CCTV footage showed Khashoggi entering the consulate - but there is no public evidence that he either left or was kidnapped or killed.
The security sources told TRT World that the "hit squad" took CCTV footage from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul with them when they left Turkey. They checked into two hotels in Istanbul, the paper said.
The official also said the journalist may have been killed on the orders of the highest levels of the Saudi royal court.More news: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 File Size Revealed
Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since a year ago fearing possible arrest.
The planes belonged to a company based in Saudi Arabia that has links to the state.
At 5:32 p.m., cameras show Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, outside the police barricades of the consulate, speaking into her cellphone.
One of the vans is reported to have taken some of the men from the consulate to the nearby residence of the Saudi consul about two hours after Mr Khashoggi's arrival. He is an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia who has dared to defy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler.
The U.S. government has remained relatively quiet on the disappearance, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Saudi leaders to "support a thorough investigation of Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation".
Video timestamps show a black Mercedes Vito leaving the Saudi consulate a minute after it arrives at the consul general's house.
The Washington Post also reports that prior to Mr Khashoggi's visit, USA intelligence had intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plot to capture him.
The country's foreign ministry has said it is "open to co-operation" and a search of the building can go ahead as part of the investigation.