Saudi official concocts second version of Khashoggi death amid universal rejection of Riyadh's account

Saudi official concocts second version of Khashoggi death amid universal rejection of Riyadh's account
An anonymous Saudi official said Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a chokehold at Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul, providing a contradictory account to the kingdom's discredited narrative of the murder.
3 min read
21 October, 2018
The official said Khashoggi died in a chokehold [Getty]
A senior Saudi government official offered a new version of Riyadh’s account into the killing of prominent journalist who was killed inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate, as global scepticism continued to mount pressure on Riyadh.

The official who requested anonymity, said the 15 Saudi nationals who flew into Turkey and arrived to the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul just hours before Jamal Khashoggi was seen walking in, threatened him with being drugged and abducted before killing him in a chokehold, Reuters reported.

A member of the team then donned Khashoggi’s clothing and exited the building to make it appear as if he had left the consulate, according to the unnamed Saudi official.

The body was then rolled up in a rug and given to a “local cooperator” for disposal, the official claimed, denying multiple reports leaked from Turkish intelligence suggesting he was tortured and decapitated.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen on 2 October entering his country's consulate in Istanbul.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia admitted after weeks of denial that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, however, claimed that the 59-year-old had died in a "fist fight” with 15 agents. Riyadh has provided no details about where Khashoggi's body is. 

Riyadh said a cover up of Khashoggi's death emerged, and announced the sacking of deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani, along with other officials, in a move seen as a scapegoating meant to shield their boss Mohammed bin Salman from blame.

Analysts have claimed that these two are the fall guys in this operation, with the royal court insiders unlikely to sanction such actions without the approval of their boss, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The controversy over Khashoggi's death has evolved into a major crisis for Saudi Arabia and its de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed, a Trump administration favourite widely known as MBS, whose image as a modernising Arab reformer has been gravely undermined by the affair.

Universal rejection

Despite Riyadh’s attempts to direct the narrative, it has faced an almost universal rejection of the account.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday he was not satisfied with Saudi Arabia's response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but cautioned against scrapping a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Riyadh.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a howl of condemnations of the “horrific event” and demanded it be “cleared up.”

The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini described Khashoggi's death as "deeply troubling" and issued a statement on Saturday over the Saudi investigation.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an "exhaustive and diligent investigation" and also hinted that the Saudi narrative left more questions than answers.

The UK's foreign office called the killing of Khashoggi "a terrible act" on Saturday, and said it was “considering the Saudi report and our next steps" following the Saudi announcement.

On Sunday Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that Saudi Arabia's account of the death was not credible and the culprits must be "held to account".

But Turkey has issued probably the strongest threat to Saudi Arabia over its claims that Khashoggi died during a melee in the consulate. Police are currently investigating the incident and searching Turkey for Khashoggi's body.

Turkish intelligence sources have also leaked gruesome information of the killing to press, with some anonymous agents claiming Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered the killing.

Turkish ministers have been more reserved about the case over the past two weeks, but on Saturday the ruling party warned it would not allow a "cover up" of Khashoggi's killing.
"Turkey will never allow a cover-up," a spokesperson from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) said.

More alarming for Riyadh, the party also warned it would reveal "the truth" of Khashoggi's killing.

"Turkey will reveal whatever had happened," said Omer Celik of the AKP said, according to Anadolu.