Saudi account of Khashoggi's death meets growing scepticism

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

On Saturday, after more than two weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate. The journalist's disappearance and slaying have sparked an global outcry as well as intense criticism of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country's de facto ruler, tarnishing his image in the West as a reformer.

It has also evolved into a major crisis for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a Trump administration favourite widely known as MBS, whose image as a modernising Arab reformer has been gravely undermined.

"Nobody has told me he's responsible", Trump said. "This was an operation that was a rogue operation", Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier on Sunday.

The senator added the United States should discontinue its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a serious discussion with Riyadh about "whether or not they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy".

Trump has cited a planned $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia as a reason for a cautious approach, although many components of that package had been set in motion months or years before he took office.

President Trump on Saturday said Saudi Arabia had been untruthful in its response to Khashoggi's disappearance, but avoided blaming the crown prince directly for his death. Asked about allegations that Khashoggi had been tortured and beheaded, he said preliminary results of the investigation did not suggest that.

"First, we condemn this act in the strongest terms", she told a news conference after speaking to members of her Christian Democrat (CDU) party.

TRT World has obtained exclusive pictures which show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, hours before he was reported missing after he failed to come out of the building. "I am calling on President Trump to immediately recall the (Acting) U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom pending further consultation with Congress".

Pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, citing the audio, said his torturers cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded him.

Saudi dismissals over Khashoggi murder point to Crown Prince MBS
Turkish officials say he was killed by a team of 15 hit men from Saudi Arabia. The US has faced pressure to toughen its stance on Saudi Arabia, a key ally.

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Saudi Arabia's acknowledgment that Khashoggi died came after two weeks of denials and growing demands from Western allies for an explanation over Khashoggi's disappearance, which galvanized a global outcry and prompted some US lawmakers to call for harsh action against Riyadh.

Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse said in a separate interview on the same program that the U.S. needed to look at a wide range of responses to Saudi Arabia, including potentially cutting arms sales to the kingdom.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted on Friday, "To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement".

"Nobody has told me he's responsible".

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the European Union and numerous European officials condemned Khashoggi's killing and called for a thorough and transparent investigation, with accountability for those involved.

Saudi Arabia said 18 Saudi suspects were in custody and intelligence officials had been fired.

He said the government supported an investigation into the killing.

Trump repeatedly touted the $110 billion in weapons deals he announced during his visit to Saudi Arabia a year ago, and insisted around 500,000 U.S.jobs were at stake. "It was a big first step". And while he described the crown prince's vision for the future as "impressive", Corker contrasted it with drastic moves in recent memory to jail high profile Saudis in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton, a flareup with Lebanon and the crown prince's "rookie mistake" in handling a blockade of Qatar.

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