RIYADH: “Rogue killers” may have been behind the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, US President Donald Trump said on Monday.
Khashoggi, a US resident, vanished after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to obtain paperwork related to his divorce.
Trump spoke on Monday after a telephone conversation with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, in which the two leaders discussed the joint investigation by the Kingdom and Turkey into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“It sounded to me, maybe these could have been rogue killers,” the president said.
Trump has dispatched US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to discuss the case with King Salman. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Trump was sending Pompeo to Riyadh because “determining what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is something of great importance to the president.”
King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday evening and stressed the importance of the two countries creating a joint group as part of the inquiry into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
A joint team of investigators visited the Istanbul consulate late on Monday to conduct an inspection.
Since Oct. 2, when Khashoggi disappeared, Turkish media have published lurid rumors that he was murdered. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied involvement in the disappearance, and no one has produced any evidence of wrongdoing.
Despite the absence of evidence, the case has provoked worldwide media frenzy — much of it based on questionable assumptions and pure fiction, an Arab News investigation into media coverage has found.
They include a “fiancée” unknown to the missing man’s family; an Apple Watch with questionable powers; an incorrect birth date; and a photo of an alleged Saudi “hit squad” that was actually taken five years ago. In addition, since Khashoggi disappeared more than 160 of his tweets have been deleted, raising questions about who is managing his Twitter account.