JEDDAH: The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the result of a “rogue operation” by people acting beyond the scope of their authority, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Sunday.
“This is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible tragedy,” he said, offering sympathy to the Khashoggi family. “Our condolences go out to them. We feel their pain. I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable.
“The individuals did this out of the scope of their authority,” Al-Jubeir told Fox News in the US, and none of those involved had close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “There were not people closely tied to him. This was an operation that was a rogue operation.”
Khashoggi died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 6 when he visited to complete some paperwork related to his divorce. Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that 18 Saudis had been arrested in connection with his death.
Conflicting reports about whether Khashoggi had left the consulate prompted the investigation, and Saudi Arabia would continue to provide information on the case “as it becomes available,” Al-Jubeir said on Sunday.
Separately, an unindentified Saudi official told the Reuters news agency that the initial account of Khashoggi’s disappearance had been based on “false information reported internally at the time.”
“Once it became clear these initial mission reports were false, the government launched an internal investigation and refrained from further public comment,” the official said.
He said the deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency, Ahmed Al-Asiri, had assembled a 15-member team to meet Khashoggi at the consulate and try to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.
Things went wrong from the start, the official said. When Khashoggi raised his voice, the team panicked. They placed him in a chokehold and covered his mouth. “They tried to prevent him from shouting, but he died,” the official said. “The intention was not to kill him.”
To cover up their misdeed, the team rolled up Khashoggi’s body in a rug, took it out in a consular vehicle and handed it over to a “local cooperator.” A team member donned Khashoggi’s clothes and left through the back door of the consulate in an attempt to make it look as if Khashoggi had walked out of the building.
The official said the team then wrote a false report for their superiors.
Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News: “This should put an end to all the spurious stories that were being dished out by different media outlets. Today’s explanation should put all the conspiracy theories to rest.”