Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi was about to disclose some detailed information about Saudi Arabia's use of chemical weapons in Yemen and the U.K. had been made aware of a planned plot against him weeks before he was killed in the Saudi Consulate building in Istanbul, a British tabloid claimed Sunday.
The Sunday Express also said in its report based on unnamed security sources that "a member of the royal circle" ordered the abduction of Khashoggi.
Claiming that a British intelligence source spoke to them over the weekend, the tabloid's report penned by diplomatic editor Marco Giannangeli, said the U.K.'s intelligence services "were initially made aware that something was going in the first week of September, around three weeks before Mr Khashoggi walked into the consulate on Oct. 2, though it took more time for other details to emerge".
"These details included primary orders to capture Mr Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia for questioning. However, the door seemed to be left open for alternative remedies to what was seen as a big problem," the source told the tabloid based on information from the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
"We know the orders came from a member of the royal circle but have no direct information to link them to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman," the article further quoted the source as saying.
"Whether this meant he was not the original issuer we cannot say," it added.
The article also claimed that the unnamed source confirmed that MI6 -- British Secret Intelligence Service -- had warned Saudi Arabian counterparts to cancel the mission but this request was ignored.
"On October 1 we became aware of the movement of a group, which included members of Ri'asat Al-Istikhbarat Al-Amah (GID) to Istanbul, and it was pretty clear what their aim was," the intelligence source told the tabloid.
"Through channels we warned that this was not a good idea. Subsequent events show that our warning was ignored."
When asked why MI6 did not alert its intelligence partner the U.S., the source said "a decision was taken that we'd done what we could".
After days of denying any knowledge of his whereabouts, Saudi officials last week admitted that the journalist had been killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Chemical weapons in Yemen
The article by The Sunday Express also claimed that Khashoggi was about to obtain "documentary evidence" proving claims that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons in its proxy war in Yemen, quoting an unnamed friend of Khashoggi.
"I met him a week before his death," Khashoggi's friend, who the paper said was a Middle Eastern academic who wished to remain anonymous, was quoted to have said.
"He was unhappy and he was worried," he said.
He said: "When I asked him why he was worried, he didn't really want to reply, but eventually he told me he was getting proof that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons.
"He [Khashoggi] said he hoped he be getting documentary evidence.
"All I can tell you is that the next thing I heard, he was missing."
"Last month it was claimed that Saudi Arabia had been using US-supplied white phosphorous munitions against troops and even civilians in Yemen," the article said.
"Though regulations state the chemical may be used to provide smokescreens, if used illegally it can burn to the bone," it said.
The Sunday Express also quoted a chemical warfare expert, Col. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, as saying that "nothing is as effective as chemical weapons in clearing urban areas of troops and civilians -- Assad has used phosphorous for this very reason."
"If Khashoggi did, in fact, have proof that Saudi Arabia was deliberately misusing phosphorous for this purpose, it would be highly embarrassing for the regime and provides the nearest motive yet as to why Riyadh may have acted when they did against him," he said.