Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor has filed warrants for the arrest of a top aide to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and the deputy head of its foreign intelligence on suspicion of planning the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, two Turkish officials said yesterday.

The prosecutor’s office has concluded there is “strong suspicion” that Saud al-Qahtani and General Ahmed al-Asiri, both removed from their positions in October, were among the planners of Khashoggi’s October 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the officials said.

The move comes a day after senior US senators said they were more certain that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the killing, citing a CIA briefing.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pushed to keep international attention on the murder - the order for which he says came from the highest levels of the Saudi government - even as US President Donald Trump has said Washington should not take action that would undermine its relationship with the kingdom.

“The prosecution’s move to issue arrest warrants for Asiri and Qahtani reflects the view that the Saudi authorities won’t take formal action against those individuals,” one of the Turkish officials said.

“The international community seems to doubt Saudi Arabia’s commitment to prosecute this heinous crime. By extraditing all suspects to Turkey, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, the Saudi authorities could address those concerns.”

Erdogan has said the order for Khashoggi’s killing probably did not come from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on Salman’s heir and de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

Republicans and Democrats said they wanted to pass legislation to send a message to Saudi Arabia that the US condemned the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said there might not be a “smoking gun” but that there was a “smoking saw”, a reference to a bone saw that investigators said was used to cut up Khashoggi’s body.

The US last month imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials for their role in the killing. Among those sanctioned were Qahtani, who was formerly a top aide to the crown prince. Qahtani had tried to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia after he moved to Washington a year ago fearing reprisals for his views, according to people close to the journalist.

Asiri, the former deputy head of foreign intelligence, was not on the list. Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has said Asiri was the one who ordered the operation to repatriate, but not kill, Khashoggi. Reuters