A little over a week ago, a prominent Saudi journalist walked into the consulate general in Istanbul, intending to get paperwork that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. She hasn’t seen him since, CNN reports.
Since then, officials and journalists have scrambled to piece together the story of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish authorities have privately said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, a startling allegation that is firmly denied by the Saudis. Closed-circuit television footage, flight trackers, intercepted communications and even rumors of a bone saw have served as pieces of a puzzle that has spurred a diplomatic outcry.
In the latest developments on Wednesday, Turkish security officials concluded that the “highest levels of the royal court” in Saudi Arabia ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, according to a senior official cited by The New York Times.
Turkish officials have said that a 15-person team flew from Saudi Arabia into Istanbul on the day Khashoggi entered the consulate, and they have provided information about two private planes that, they say, were involved in the transit of these Saudis. Aviation data analyzed by CNN backs up evidence of the planes’ arrival in Istanbul.
The official quoted by the New York Times described the operation as “quick and complex,” and that Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. The agents “dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose,” the official told The New York Times. “It’s like ‘Pulp Fiction,'” he added.
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About the only thing that is known for sure about Khashoggi’s fate is that he was last seen at 1:14 p.m. local time last Tuesday as he entered the consulate.
His disappearance has prompted calls for investigations from around the world.
The kingdom’s staunchest Western allies, including the United States, where Khashoggi had applied for permanent residency, have urged Saudi Arabia to come clean.
Trump said Wednesday that he’s been in touch with the “highest levels” of the Saudi government about Khashoggi’s case and expressed concerns about his possible murder. He said his administration was pressing the Saudi government to reveal more about the incident.
“We’re demanding everything. We want to see what’s going on here. It’s a bad situation,” Trump said in the Oval Office.
But he stopped short of saying whether he believed the Saudis have knowledge about his whereabouts, or may have played a role in his disappearance, stating that not enough was known to make a determination.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied Turkey’s account of the story, saying that Khashoggi left the embassy on the same day he arrived.
In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, a Saudi official said the kingdom “categorically” denies “any involvement in Jamal’s disappearance.”
“At this stage, our priority is to support the investigation, as opposed to responding to evolving comments not directly related to those efforts. Jamal’s well-being, as a Saudi citizen, is our utmost concern and we are focusing on the investigation as a means to reveal the truth behind his disappearance. Our sympathies go out to the family during this difficult time,” the official said.
Kenya, UAE seal economic relations deal
Thani Al Zeyoudi, the United Arab Emirate’s minister of foreign trade, has announced that his country and Kenya have reached an agreement for a comprehensive economic partnership (Cepa).
According to a social media post by Al Zeyoudi, non-oil commerce between the Gulf State and Kenya reached $3.1 billion in 2023, up 26.4% from 2022.
As part of a plan to diversify its oil-based economy, the UAE initiated bilateral trade talks with many African nations in 2022, including Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa.
“We will now look to expand across sectors, from food production and mining to technology and logistics,” he said of the agreement.
Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano was quoted by the UAE state news agency WAM as saying that the agreement would be crucial in making it possible for Kenyan exports to reach significant markets in Asia and the Middle East as well as “in stimulating investment inflows that will further develop our national capabilities.”
The UAE has inked other Cepas, including agreements with Asia’s superpowers, India and Indonesia, as well as longtime adversaries, Israel and Turkey. 2023 saw the Gulf State sign its first CEPA with two African countries, the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville and the island of Mauritius.
With over €2 million in total trade, Kenya ranked the UAE as its fourth-biggest trading partner, and it was also the largest trading partner and export destination in the Middle East.
UN sanctions six Congolese rebels over crisis in its eastern region
Six members of five armed organisations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council as violence between the Congolese army and M23 Tutsi-led rebels, who are backed by Rwanda, has escalated.
The fighting in this decades-long battle has made it more likely that Rwanda and Congo could go to war, which might draw in armies from nearby countries like South Africa, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi.
The Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, told a meeting of the 15-member Security Council that “The United States firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC and lasting peace for all Congolese people. Rwanda and the DRC must walk back from the brink of war.”
A travel ban, asset freeze, and arms embargo were placed on two leaders of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one commander of the Twirwaneho armed organisation, and one leader of the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC) rebels by the Security Council’s DRC sanctions committee.
The military spokesman for the M23 Tutsi-led rebels, allegedly backed by Rwanda, and a leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an organisation started by Hutus who left Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide that killed over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were also placed on the UN list.
“These individuals are responsible for numerous abuses,” Wood said of the six sanctioned individuals.
After replacing a previous U.N. operation in 2010 to aid in reducing insecurity in the country’s east, Congo has been home to a UN peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO for more than 13 years.
Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Congo, requested in September that the peacekeepers’ withdrawal be expedited, and the UN Security Council granted his request, allowing the deployment to terminate in December.
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