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Saudi king inaugurates Mecca-Medina high speed train line

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

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Makkah to Madinah New High speed train

Riyadh, Sep 26 : The Saudi king inaugurated a high-speed rail line connecting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina on Tuesday.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz declared, in a ceremony held in the Saudi city of Jeddah, that the service has formally begun and boarded one of the new trains for the inaugural trip between Jeddah and Medina, a spokesman for the construction consortium told Efe news agency.

“We thank Allah for the growth and prosperity in all fields in our country, and we thank Allah Almighty for His grace. Thank you,” the king said, according to the Saudi official news agency SPA.

Initially, the routes of the line will be limited and eight daily trips will be offered between Mecca and Medina for four days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

The 450 km Haramain rail line connects Mecca, Jeddah, King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and Medina.

A consortium including 12 Spanish firms along with two Saudi firms has been tasked with building the second phase of the project.

“This inauguration is a milestone for Spanish engineering, which has demonstrated the ability of our companies and engineers to build a high-speed train under extreme weather conditions,” Iranzo said, according to a statement from the consortium.

The inauguration was attended by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and other Saudi officials, as well as by Spain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alvaro Iranzo, and the president of the High Speed Spanish Consortium, Jorge Segrelles, among others.

Bashar Al Malik, executive director of the Saudi railway company, told EFE that the actual start of service will begin on October 4.

He pointed out that the commercial operation of the line will begin within nine days, but without giving more details.

Al Malik said he expects the high speed line to overcome the difficulties and obstacles that have caused its delay, mainly due to sandstorms.

The Spanish consortium said in a statement that tickets will be able to be reserved “in the coming weeks.”

Regular trains will start operating on the line from next month between the stations of Makkah Al Mukarramah, Madinah, Sulaymaniyah in Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City, while trains to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport will begin around mid-2019.

The line is aimed at doubling the number of visitors and pilgrims to the holy cities and is in line with Saudi Arabia’s development plan, Vision 2030, which aims to expand the economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

With a fleet of 35 trains, carrying up to 417 people each, the service is expected to ferry around 60 million passengers yearly.

The trains will cover the distance between Mecca and Medina in under two hours, less than half the time that it takes to cover the same distance by road.

Middle East

Khashoggi’s murder was planned affair: Erdogan

The President said that information and evidence show that Khashoggi fell victim to a brutal murder.

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erdogan

Ankara, Oct 23 : Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that the country’s security services have evidence that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was a planned affair.

He made the remarks while speaking at a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) here, reports Hurriyet Daily News.

“Turkish security services have evidence that the murder was a planned affair. Turkey and the world will only be satisfied when all the planners and perpetrators are held to account,” the President said.

“Other countries must participate in the investigation.”

Erdogan claimed that Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, first came to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on September 28 to get his marriage documents. The “roadmap” to kill Khashoggi started with this visit.

He said that a day before Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, a group of three Saudis landed in Istanbul and went to the consulate while another team visited the Belgrad Forest near the city and the neighbouring Yalova province.

“On October 2, another group came and this 15-member team went to the consulate and removed the hard disks of security cameras there. Khashoggi’s went inside that afternoon and never appeared again while his fiancee waited outside,” Erdogan said.

It was later found that 15 Saudis including intelligence officers and forensics experts came to Turkey ahead of Khashoggi’s visit.

“I spoke to (Saudi) King Salman on October 14 and formed a joint investigation team. This is how our officials could enter the consulate and the consul’s residence… Seventeen days after the killing, Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate.

“We held another phone call and they told us that 18 Saudis, including people from the 15-member team we exposed, were arrested in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The President said that information and evidence show that Khashoggi fell victim to a brutal murder.

“We have strong evidence that the killing was intentional, not accidental. Now we expect them to punish all those who played a part in the murder.”

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Saudi Foreign Minister pledges ‘fair probe’ into Khashoggi’s death

Al-Jubeir said 18 people had been detained and six senior government officials had already been dismissed as a result of the investigation.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Jakarta, Oct 23 (IANS) Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, who is in Indonesia on an official visit, said on Tuesday that the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be thoroughly investigated and those responsible would be punished.

“Our commitment is to seek that the investigation is thorough and complete and that the truth is revealed,” said Al-Jubeir at a joint press conference in Jakarta with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

“We will see to it … that procedures and mechanisms are put in place to ensure that something like this can never happen again,” he was cited as saying by Efe news.

On Monday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had expressed his concern over the incident to Al-Jubeir during a meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, according to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.

Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia had sent a team to Turkey for a joint investigation and “uncovered evidence of a murder” in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies, disappeared after he entered the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his marriage.

Al-Jubeir said 18 people had been detained and six senior government officials had already been dismissed as a result of the investigation.

The Saudi diplomatic head said there were discrepancies between what the Saudi embassy in Turkey reported and what actually happened.

A video, obtained and broadcast by CNN on Monday, purportedly showed a Saudi agent walking out of the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, spectacles and a fake beard, in an apparent attempt to disguise himself as the slain Saudi journalist.

A Turkish official identified the man in the video as Mustafa al-Madani, who was allegedly part of what investigators said was a hit squad, sent to kill the journalist.

After weeks of denying involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi Arabia has given a shifting narrative of what happened to the journalist.

The Kingdom admitted last week that Khashoggi was killed in the Istanbul consulate, saying his death was the result of a “fistfight”. Later, a Saudi source close to the royal palace told CNN that he died in a chokehold.

On Sunday, Al-Jubeir described Khashoggi’s death as a “murder” and a “tremendous mistake”.

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UN chief for thorough probe into Khashoggi’s death

The Secretary-General also extended his condolences to Khashoggi’s family and friends.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, Oct 23 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The Secretary-General stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible,” his deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday, reports Xinhua news agency.

The UN issued a statement over the weekend, saying that its chief was “deeply troubled” by the confirmation of the death of Khashoggi. The Secretary-General also extended his condolences to Khashoggi’s family and friends.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday called the killing of Khashoggi a “huge and grave mistake” while insisting on the innocence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi Public Prosecution announced on Friday the death of the Saudi journalist amid growing pressure from some Western countries on the kingdom to explain the disappearance of the missing journalist following a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

IANS

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