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Turkey probing visit of Saudi officers the day Khashoggi vanished

Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four days ago.

Jamal Khashoggi

At least 15 Saudi officials arrived in Turkey's Istanbul city the day journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate and later disappeared, sources have said.

The revelations came as Turkey widened its investigation into the disappearance of the dissident Saudi journalist after Saudi Arabia failed to back its claim that he left the consulate on Tuesday.

Turkey's ruling party said it will "uncover" the details surrounding Khashoggi's vanishing, adding that the country's sensitivity on the issue was at the "highest level".

"The condition of the lost journalist, details on him and who is responsible for this will be uncovered," AK Party spokesman Omer Celik told reporters at a party summit chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara alleges that Khashoggi, 59, a prominent contributor to the Washington Post who lived in a self-imposed exile in the United States, is still inside the consulate building.

On Friday, Turkey's foreign ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Ankara over the issue.

Later that day, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said Saudi authorities would allow Turkey to search its consulate.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia will allow Turkey to search consulate for Khashoggi

"We will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do ... We have nothing to hide," MBS told Bloomberg on Friday.

Saudi Arabia invited a group of journalists into the Istanbul mission on Saturday, in an effort to show that Khashoggi was not on the premises.

"I would like to confirm that...Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him," consul-general Mohammad al-Otaiba told Reuters news agency.

Khashoggi, who has been critical of the crown prince, entered the consulate's premises at around 1pm (10:00 GMT) on Tuesday to secure paperwork in order to marry his Turkish fiancée, identified only as Hatice A.

Hatice said she waited outside after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate on Tuesday and never re-emerged.

Rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia to verify Khashoggi's whereabouts, with Human Rights Watch calling on Turkey to deepen its investigation into the case, saying if Saudi Arabia had detained Khashoggi without acknowledging it, his detention would constitute an enforced disappearance.

Implication on ties

Khashoggi's disappearance may further strain relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are on opposite sides of the multination blockade of Qatar and other regional crises.

Khashoggi, who had been living in self-imposed exile in the US for over a year, is one of the best-known critics of the Saudi government's reform programme under the stewardship of MBS.

In his writings for the Washington Post, the Saudi commentator slammed Saudi policies towards Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen, and a crackdown on dissent and the media in the kingdom.

Responding to his disappearance, the Washington Post earlier this week said it was "extremely concerned" about him.

"We have reached out to anyone we think might be able to help locate him and assure his safety, including US, Turkish and Saudi officials," the Post's Fred Hiatt said in a statement.

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