Paramilitary police officers stand at the entrance to a private villa in Yalova, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Turkey's state-run news agency says police are searching a villa in northwest Turkey as part of an investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (DHA via AP)

Turkish police search villas as part of Khashoggi case probe

November 26, 2018 - 6:42 am

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish police, searching for the remains of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, scoured the grounds of two adjoining villas in northwestern Turkey, the country's state-run news agency reported.

Crime scene investigators and other officials aided by sniffer dogs and a drone, first sealed off one of the villas near the town of Termal in Yalova province and later expanded their search to the grounds of the neighboring villa, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

The focus of the search was a well on the grounds of the first villa, which was being drained of water with special equipment brought to the scene.

Turkey has maintained pressure on Saudi Arabia over the Oct. 2 killing of the U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post. Khashoggi was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Turkey says the journalist was killed by a 15-member assassination squad sent from Riyadh. The assassins strangled and dismembered him before removing his remains, which have yet to be found.

Anadolu, without citing a source, said the villas belong to two Saudi businessmen, including one who had allegedly been contacted by telephone by some members of the Saudi assassination squad.

The agency did not name the businessman but said he was outside of Turkey at the time of the killing and had not returned in the past two months.

Ankara insists the orders for the killing came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but not King Salman. The Saudi agents blamed for the killing included some members of the crown prince's security entourage.

Saudi Arabia initially said Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate before shifting its account of what happened amid Turkish intelligence leaks. Riyadh is now seeking the death penalty for five members of the hit squad in a move that appeared to be aimed at appeasing international outrage over the killing and distancing the killers and their operation from the crown prince.

Saudi prosecutors maintain that the 15-man team sent to Istanbul exceeded its authority when the lead negotiator in the team decided to kill Khashoggi for refusing orders to return.

Yalova Gov. Muammer Erol confirmed that a search related to Khashoggi's killing was taking place but said any announcement concerning the search would come from Istanbul's chief prosecutor, who is leading the Turkish investigation into the killing.

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