ISTANBUL: Turkish investigators have searched a forest in Istanbul as part of the probe into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, local media reported on Friday.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, vanished after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for paperwork.
Turkish sources and pro-government media have pointed to Riyadh’s involvement in what they say is his murder by a team of 15 Saudis especially sent to Istanbul for the task.
Riyadh has strongly rejected the claims, although some of the Saudis are believed to have close links to the crown prince.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he now believed Khashoggi was dead.
The search of Belgrade Forest on Istanbul’s European side began on Thursday, Turkish daily Cumhuriyet and NTV broadcaster said.
The forest, a vast area and sufficiently remote for even locals to regularly get lost there, is nearly 15 kilometres away from the Saudi consulate.
The area became a target of the investigation after police focused on the vehicles which had left the consulate on the day Khashoggi disappeared, NTV channel reported. At least one vehicle is suspected to have gone to the forest.
Turkish police already conducted two searches of the consulate and a nine-hour search of the consul’s residence this week.
The Saudi consul, Mohammed al Otaibi, abruptly left Istanbul for Riyadh on Tuesday.
Pro-government daily Sabah on Friday published new CCTV images of some of the Saudi team arriving in Istanbul and reported that two of the men landed in the city on October 1.
Previously, local media said the 15 men arrived in Turkey via two private planes on the day that Khashoggi went missing, which then returned to Riyadh via Egypt and Dubai.