Timeline: A look back at the Khashoggi disappearance

Screengrab France 24 | Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi

A look back at key developments in the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Riyadh, who was tortured and killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, sparking international outrage.


Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the Saudi kingdom's policies and of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish officials believe a 15-man team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia has offered a series of contradictory explanations.

Here are some of the key moments in the disappearance and killing of the dissident journalist and Washington Post columnist.

- September 2017: The Washington Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in which the former royal court insider writes about going into self-imposed exile in the United States over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticise the prince and the kingdom's direction.

>> Read: Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable.

- Sept. 28, 2018: Over a year after his first column was published, Khashoggi visits the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, seeking the documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz. He is told to return on October 2, Cengiz says.

- Sept. 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.

- Oct. 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul.

The day of his disappearance

- 3:28am on Oct. 2: A private plane arrives at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport carrying members of what Turkish media will later refer to as a 15-man Saudi "assassination squad", including a man that officials describe as a forensics and "autopsy expert". Others arrive via commercial flights, Turkish officials say.

- 1:14pm: Surveillance footage leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi consulate. No public footage shows him leaving and his fiancée waits outside, pacing for hours.

- 3:07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi consulate for the consul general's home some 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away.

- 7pm: A private plane just arrived from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.

- 11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the next day returning to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.

Initial reaction

- Oct. 3: Khashoggi's fiancée and the Washington Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. That night, Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: "We have nothing to hide."

- Oct. 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out "follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building".

- Oct. 5: The Washington Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: "A missing voice".

Screen grab, The Washington Post

- Oct. 6: The Washington Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a "preplanned murder" by a Saudi team.

- Oct. 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him Khashoggi was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls "baseless allegations".

- Oct. 8: Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi's disappearance and alleged killing.

Leaked footage

- Oct. 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.

- Oct. 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi's fiancée asks US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.

>> Read all of Jamal Khashoggi’s columns for The Washington Post

- Oct. 11: Turkish media says the alleged Saudi hit squad included royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert, details they later confirmed to the AP. Trump calls Khashoggi's disappearance a "bad situation" and promises to get to the bottom of it.

- Oct. 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi's alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.

International uproar

- Oct. 14: Trump tells the CBS news show "60 Minutes" that the US is "going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment" if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.

- Oct. 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that "rogue killers" could be responsible for Khashoggi's slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the region to deal with the fallout from the case. Meanwhile, several business leaders and foreign officials, including US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, withdraw from an economic summit in Riyadh that was the brainchild of Prince Mohammed and dubbed "Davos in the Desert".

- Oct. 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that "certain evidence" was found in the Saudi consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. After a day of talks, Pompeo says Saudi leaders "strongly denied knowledge of what took place" with Khashoggi at the consulate but said the US was "seriously committed" to an investigation.

>> Crown prince struggles to salvage Saudi reputation after Khashoggi affair

- Oct. 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the foreign minister in Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia's consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate. The Washington Post publishes the last column Khashoggi submitted, entitled: "What the Arab world needs most is free expression."

- Oct. 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage walking into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.

- Oct. 20: Saudi Arabia acknowledges for the first time that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a "fistfight". The claim draws immediate scepticism from the kingdom's Western allies, notably in the US Congress. France calls for a full investigation.

- Oct. 22: Newly leaked surveillance footage shows a man appearing to be wearing Khashoggi's clothes and leaving the consulate after Khashoggi was killed. Another report says a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage made four calls to the royal's office around the same time.

- Oct. 23: In a widely anticipated announcement, Turkish President Erdogan says Saudi officials plotted Khashoggi's "savage murder" and demands that those involved should be tried in Turkey. Saudi state media report that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are meeting with members of the Khashoggi family in Riyadh.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app