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Trump Warns Of 'Severe' Consequences If Saudis Killed Journalist

Turkish forensic police officers leave after searching for evidence at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 18.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned of "very severe" consequences if Saudi officials are found to be responsible for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The journalist was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2.

Trump's warning came as the administration toughened its response to the disappearance of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership.

Before Trump spoke on October 18, Washington announced that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had pulled out of a major upcoming Saudi investment conference.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly warned Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who was one of the main targets of Khashoggi's criticism, that his credibility as a future leader is at stake.

Pompeo, who traveled to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss the case, said the Saudis should be given a few more days to finish and make public a credible investigation before the United States decides "how or if" to respond.

Turkish reports say Khashoggi, who was a U.S. resident and had written columns for The Washington Post over the past year, was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by members of an assassination squad with ties to Prince Muhammad.

The Saudis have rejected the accusations as baseless but have yet to explain what happened to the writer.

Trump, asked what consequences Saudi leaders would face if they are found to be responsible, replied: "It will have to be very severe. It's bad, bad stuff. But we'll see what happens."

Vice President Mike Pence said earlier on October 19 that "the world deserves answers" about what happened to Khashoggi, "and those who are responsible need to be held to account."

Based on reporting by AFP and AP