Hunt for black van suspected of carrying Khashoggi's body begins in Istanbul

Turkish authorities are investigating a black van they say may have been used to transport the body of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared last week after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to finalise divorce papers.

The authorities are searching for the van, which was part of a convoy of vehicles reportedly driven by a suspected Saudi hit squad, on motorway cameras, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday evening.

"Officials say the convoy left the consulate around two hours after Khashoggi entered. Security camera footage shows boxes being loaded into the van, which carried diplomatic number plates," said the Guardian report.

Earlier on Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said during a conference in Budapest that Saudi Arabian officials must prove that Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate.

"We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying 'he has left'," pro-government Daily Sabah quoted the Turkish president as saying.

Erdoğan stressed that Turkey had no documents or evidence at hand regarding the case of dissident journalist Khashoggi, who has last seen entering the Saudi Consulate and has been missing for almost a week. 

Turkish officials on Monday asked for permission to search the Saudi Consulate in İstanbul for Khashoggi after summoning the Saudi Arabian Ambassador for the second time on Sunday, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.

The request follows statements from Turkish officials to Reuters over the weekend that they believed the Saudi journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Erdogan on Sunday said he was personally following the case of Khashoggi and will be announcing major developments, pro-government CNN Türk reported.

‘’We are waiting on the investigation by the prosecutor’s office. It is deeply saddening that this incident took place in our country. I still remain hopeful. I hope that nothing took place which we don’t hope for,’’ Erdoğan said on Sunday.

The Turkish president stressed that he was following the case closely and would be announcing the developments to the world.

An article in the Washington Post citing two Turkish sources claimed that 15-member Saudi team was sent to Turkey “specifically for the murder," and that the murder which took place at the consulate ‘’was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate." 

However, a source at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul denied on Sunday the Turkish sources' statements.

In a statement, a Saudi official from the consulate said  to Reuters that the accusations were baseless, adding that a security team including Saudi investigators had arrived in Istanbul on Saturday to take part in the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Earlier on Saturday Turkish officials said an investigation on Khashoggi's disappearance had begun and a spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan's the Justice and Development Party (AKP) said authorities would uncover the case of the prominent Saudi journalist.

Khashoggi, who writes for The Washington Post’s Global Opinions section, came to Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul on Tuesday to obtain documents related to his upcoming wedding, according to The Washington Post.

Khashoggi, the former advisor of Prince Turki al-Faisal, is known for his critical views on Saudi Arabia's policies such as the relationship with Qatar and Canada, the war in Yemen and political pressure on dissent. He has written opinion pieces for various Western news outlets including The Washington Post.