A Turkish newspaper has reported that one of the suspects involved in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi died in a “suspicious car accident” in Riyadh.
Mashal Saad Al-Bostani, a 31-year-old lieutenant of the Saudi Royal Air Forces was one of the 15 Saudi agents who Turkish officials say was involved in the operation to kill the Washington Post journalist.
Al-Bostani, who was inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when Khashoggi entered it, died in a traffic accident in Riyadh, according to several Turkish papers. The news outlets, however, provided no details of the accident.
He has been identified as one of several members of the assassination crew to have ties with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Earlier in the week the New York Times reported that four of the alleged killers were linked by witnesses directly to the Crown Prince’s security details.
If reports of Al Bostani’s sudden death turn out to be true, it will represent another dramatic turn in the suspected killing of Khashoggi and raise concerns about a wider cover up by Bin Salman. A political commentator cited by the Turkish Daily Hürriyet claimed that Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consul Mohammad Al-Otaibi could be “the next execution” as the Crown Prince according to Abdulkadir Selvi “would do anything to get rid of evidence”.
While Riyadh has rejected the accusation and US President Donald Trump has been keen to peruse a diplomatic clean-up operation, US intelligence spy agencies are increasingly convinced that Bin Salman had ties to the disappearance of Khashoggi. The New York Times reported the view of American intelligence officials who are reported to have growing circumstantial evidence of the prince’s involvement — including the presence of members of his security detail and intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a possible plan to detain Khashoggi.
Meanwhile investigation into the disappearance has continued with Turkish forensic experts returning to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for a second. Trump, who has been accused of trying to provide diplomatic cover for his Saudi asset, has said he wants to hear the recording of Khashoggi’s purported killing “if it exists”.
He was speaking as Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, returned from a trip to Turkey and Saudi Arabia that highlighted the US’ desire to balance concern over Khashoggi with a desire to preserve economic and security ties to Saudi Arabia.
It’s been over two weeks and despite mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the death of the veteran journalist, neither Trump nor Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have publicly pointed the finger at the Saudi leadership. The US and Turkey are seemingly trying to avoid rupture with Riyadh.
But their efforts to avoid a diplomatic row have done little to satisfy business leaders that Saudi under Bin Salman is a reliable investment. The French finance minister is the latest to pull out of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh adding his name to 20 other global firms that are boycotting the event dubbed “Davos in the desert”.
The Financial Times reported Bruno Le Maire telling the Senate this morning, “I will not go to Riyadh next week.”
“For the moment there are serious facts here, the full light must be shone on this affair and so I will not go to Riyadh,” said Le Maire. His concerns were echoed by G7 foreign ministers who issued a joint statement urging Saudi Arabia to conduct “a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The international mixed martial brand made popular by the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov has also pulled out of a $400 million deal. News of Endeavor, the UFC’s parent company, pulling out was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, which revealed that the talent agency had withdrawn from a deal that would have seen a Saudi sovereign wealth fund invest hundreds of millions into the company.
British Arms Company, BAE systems, however has decided to brave controversy by attending the event which critics say is being avoided by the rest of world like a plague. Ties between BAE and the kingdom stretch back more than five decades. The company has suffered a drop in the price of its shares in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s disappearance.