Under growing pressure, Saudi senior official offers yet another explanation for Khashoggi death

Teri Webster

A senior Saudi Arabia official on Sunday offered Reuters news yet another explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

What’s the latest story?

The official claims a team of 15 men acted without permission from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and attempted to extradite Khashoggi. He reportedly resisted and was accidentally killed after being placed in a chokehold, Reuters reported.

Kashoggi’s body was rolled up in a rug and disposed. Then, one of the team members dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate, said the official, who reportedly spoke to the news agency only on the condition of anonymity.

The Saudi narrative surrounding Khashoggi’s death has changed multiple times. Initially, officials denied the journalist went missing inside the consulate. The government also denied he was killed there. Then, officials said Kashoggi died in a fist fight with officials at the consulate.

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The Saudi government is facing growing pressure for the death of Khashoggi, a former insider turned critic. He was also a columnist for the Washington Post.

Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, called the narrative of his death “Utter bull***t,” in a tweet.

Turkish investigators claim to have an audio recording from the consulate that they say proves Khashoggi was tortured and had his body dismembered with a bone saw, an accusation the Saudi government denies.

President Donald Trump initially said Saudi Arabia’s explanation of Khashoggi’s death seemed credible.

On Saturday, Trump reportedly said: “No, I am not satisfied until we find the answer. But it was a big first step, it was a good first step. But I want to get to the answer.”

Other world leaders and officials are also demanding answers.

What are world leaders saying?

The Guardian rounded up various comments made by other leaders.

During an interview on BBC TV, the UK’s Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, was asked if he believed the Saudi explanation.

No, I don’t think it is credible,” he said. “We support the Turkish investigation into it and the British government will want to see people held to account for that death.”

French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said further investigation is needed.

“I note that the Saudi authorities have changed tack, admitted the facts and accepted some responsibility, so we’re making progress,” he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minster Heiko Maas issued a statement Saturday indicating that they believe information from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, was incomplete and lacked transparency.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, called Khashoggi’s death a shocking violation of international policies.

Canadian foreign minister Chrsytia Freeland said in a statement on Saturday that explanations offered by the Saudi government “lack consistency and credibility.”

“We deplore the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison said. “We expect the Saudi government to cooperate fully with Turkish authorities regarding the investigation of this matter.”

Saudi Arabia, despite being a key Western ally in containing Iran, is facing unprecedented pressure over the death. It has also become a “major crisis” for Prince bin Salman, also known as MBS, whose attempts to fashion himself as an Arab reformer are now seriously undermined, the Guardian reported.