Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday claimed officials in Riyadh do not know how dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in their consulate in Istanbul or where his body is. The minister is the first senior Saudi official to speak on the matter.
In an interview to Fox News, Jubeir said “Saudi security team” approached Khashoggi when he entered the consulate on October 2 and their account of what happened after that differed from the version of events Turkish officials have presented.
“He was killed in the consulate,” Jubeir said. “We do not know in terms of details how. We do not know where the body is. We are determined to uncover every stone...We are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder.”
The Saudis, who initially denied that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, have changed their statement more than once in the past few weeks. On Saturday, they admitted that that the dissident journalist was killed in the consulate, allegedly after a quarrel and a brawl with unidentified men.
The foreign minister called Khashoggi’s murder a terrible mistake and offered condolences to his family. The journalist has relatives in Saudi Arabia and his three children who hold US citizenship.
“This is a terrible mistake,” Jubeir told Fox News. “This is a terrible tragedy. Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain. Unfortunately, a huge and grave mistake was made and I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had called Khashoggi’s son, Salah, to express his condolences, AP reported, quoting the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
In another conflicting report, an unidentified official told Reuters on Sunday that a team of 15 agents had acted without Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s authorisation to kidnap the journalist. He was accidentally choked after resisting and his body was rolled up in a rug and given to a local person for disposal, the official claimed. A member of the security team then dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate, according to the official. It had taken Riyadh so long to investigate the journalist’s death as the agents had given authorities a false report, the official added.
A number of major Western nations have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Saudis’ claims and have said they would wait for the investigation by Turkish authorities to end.
Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017. On Wednesday, audio recordings accessed by a Turkish daily suggested that Khashoggi had been tortured before being decapitated.