TURKEY: Saudis now admits journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered
Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on a “rogue operation”, giving a new account of an act that sparked a global outcry.
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News “the murder” had been a “tremendous mistake” and denied the powerful crown prince had ordered it.
The journalist was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The Saudis, under intense pressure to explain the journalist’s whereabouts, have offered conflicting accounts.
They initially said he had left the building unharmed on 2 October but on Friday admitted for the first time he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fight. This claim met widespread scepticism.
Turkish officials believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence to prove it.
How has the Saudi version of events changed?
Adel al-Jubeir’s comments, describing the incident as murder, are some of the most direct to come from a Saudi official.
“We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” he said.
“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he added. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”
He also said that they did not know where the body was and insisted the action had not been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as Saudi Arabia’s most powerful figure.
“Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.
However, Yeni Safak, a source close to Turkey’s government, says it has information showing that the office of the crown prince had received four phone calls from the consulate after the killing.
The paper, which has leaked many details of the Turkish investigation so far, suggested embassy official Maher Mutreb had used his own mobile phone to call the office, as well as an American number believed to belong to the crown prince’s younger brother, Khaled, who was Saudi ambassador to the US.
Prince Khaled bin Salman left the US soon after Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time on Friday that Khashoggi had died, suggesting he had been killed in a fight with some of the people he was meeting inside the consulate.
Until this point – for 18 days – the authorities had maintained that the Saudi critic was last seen leaving the building alive.