Where is Jamal Khashoggi's body?

Where is Jamal Khashoggi's body?
As world leaders express their dissatisfaction with Riyadh's account of how Jamal Khashoggi died, Saudi Arabia has remained silent on what happened to the journalist's body.
4 min read
21 October, 2018
Turkish authorities have been searching the Belgrad forest for Khashoggi's remains [Getty]

Following Saudi Arabia's admission on Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi was in fact killed, Riyadh has so far failed to provide further details about where the slain journalist's body is.

The conservative kingdom's most senior ally, the United States, gave a mixed response to Riyadh's version of events on Saturday, with President Donald Trump indicating dissatisfaction with the Saudi claims.

"I think it's a good first step, it's a big step. It's a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it's a great first step," Trump, who has forged close ties with Saudi Arabia during his presidency, told reporters in Arizona.

When asked about the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains, Trump said, "Nobody seems to know. Somebody knows, but nobody of the various investigation groups at this moment know."

US lawmakers were stronger in their response, with Republican Senator Marco Rubio saying on Twitter: "#SaudiArabia's changing stories on #KhashoggiMurder is getting old. The latest one about a fist fight gone bad is bizarre." 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham also weighed in, highlighting inconsistencies in the Saudi narrative since Khashoggi's disappearance.

"First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he's killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince," of South Carolina said on Twitter. "It's hard to find this latest 'explanation' as credible."

EU leaders were also vocal in their dissatisfaction with the claims about an altercation leading to Khashoggi's death, with French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying in an emailed statement that "numerous questions remain unanswered".

Turkish officials, meanwhile, have accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out a state-sponsored killing and dismembering Khashoggi's body. The conflicting narratives have piled pressure on Washington, which is seeking to maintain good business relations with its key Arab ally.

Turkish officials have said privately that Khashoggi was dismembered, and Saudi authorities have failed to produce his body or say where they believe it to be. All they would say was that officials engaged in a cover-up.

In recent days, police have been searching the Belgrad Forest on the outskirts of Istanbul as a possible location where the Saudi journalist's remains could have been dumped.

Reports also suggested that Turkish authorities have been searching farmland in the coastal Yalova province, which is almost 100 kilometres south of Istanbul.

Another source, however, told Sky News that the possibility that Khashoggi's body was dissolved in a "very fast-acting chemical acid" is also being investigated.

Over the period of Khashoggi's disappearance, Turkish state-sponsered media outlets have leaked an array of graphic and gruesome details of the dissident writer's alleged torture and dismemberment the hands of a Saudi secret service "death squad".

On Saturday, a senior Turkish official said that Ankara will "find out what happened to the body before long". "The DNA is being procured from within Turkey. It seems there will be no need to ask Saudi Arabia at the moment," he added.

On the same day, Turkey's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Numan Kurtulmus, said that "conclusive evidence and findings" would soon be disclosed to the world following the investigation. He added that Turkey will not allow a cover-up of what he described as an "ugly, dreadful and inhumane case". 

A source close to the Saudi court on Saturday told CNN that the ruling family has no knowledge of the whereabouts of Khashoggi's body, adding that the remains were handed over to a local "collaborator". However, observers have remained sceptial of reports emerging from the Saudi court, with many asserting that Riyadh is attempting to absolve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de-facto ruler, of responsibility.

The controversy over Khashoggi's death has evolved into a major crisis for Prince Mohammed, a Trump administration favourite widely known as MBS whose image as a modernising Arab reformer has been gravely undermined.

In recent days, King Salman has been seen taking a more active role in the running of the kingdom, including by ordering the sacking of two of his heir's key aides

It has been widely speculated that the two sacked aides, deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and royal court media advisor Saud al-Qahtani, have been scapegoated by Saudi Arabia's rulers amid a royal cover-up.