Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on a “rogue operation”, giving a new account of an act that sparked a global outcry.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News “the murder” had been a “tremendous mistake” and denied the powerful crown prince had ordered it.

The journalist was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The Saudis, under intense pressure to explain the journalist’s whereabouts, have offered conflicting accounts.

They initially said he had left the building unharmed on 2 October but on Friday admitted for the first time he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fight.

This claim met widespread scepticism.

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence to prove it.


How has the Saudi version of events changed?

Adel al-Jubeir’s comments, describing the incident as murder, are some of the most direct to come from a Saudi official.

“We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” he said.

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” added al-Jubeir.

He also said that they did not know where the body was and insisted the action had not been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as Saudi Arabia’s most powerful figure.

“Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.

These remarks followed Saudi Arabia’s admission on Friday that Khashoggi had died.

A statement from the public prosecutor said he had been killed when a fight broke out with some of the people he was meeting inside the consulate.

Until this point – for 18 days – the authorities had maintained that the Saudi critic was last seen leaving the building alive.

They then said they had arrested 18 people, sacked two aides of Mohammed bin Salman and set up a body, under his leadership, to reform the intelligence agency over the killing.

Both King Salman and the crown prince called Khashoggi’s son, Salah, on Sunday to express their condolences over his death, the Saudi Press Agency reports.

Salah Khashoggi resides in Saudi Arabia and, according to the Wall Street Journal, had been barred from leaving the country to visit his father who was living in self-imposed exile in the US.


How has the world reacted?

In a Washington Post interview on Saturday, US President Donald Trump said there had been “deception” and “lies” in Saudi Arabia’s explanation, having previously said he found their narrative to be credible.

He said he would “love” it if the crown prince was not responsible for the murder.

The president has raised the possibility of imposing sanctions but said halting an arms deal would “hurt us more than it would hurt them”.

Jamal Khashoggi killing: The key events

2 October

  • 03:28: A private jet carrying suspected Saudi agents arrives at Istanbul airport. A second joins it late afternoon
  • 12:13: Several diplomatic vehicles are filmed arriving at the consulate, allegedly carrying some of the Saudi agents
  • 13:14: Khashoggi enters the building, where he is due to pick up paperwork ahead of his marriage
  • 15:08: Vehicles leave the consulate and are filmed arriving at the nearby Saudi consul’s residence
  • 21:00: Both jets leave Turkey by 21:00

3 October – Turkish government announces Khashoggi is missing, thought to be in the consulate

4 October – Saudi Arabia says he left the embassy

7 October – Turkish officials tell the BBC they believe Khashoggi was killed at the consulate. This is later strongly denied by Saudi Arabia

13 October – Turkish officials tell BBC Arabic they have audio and video evidence of the killing. The existence of such tapes had previously been reported by local media

15 and 17-18 October – Forensic teams carry out searches of consulate

19 October – Saudi state TV reports an initial investigation shows Jamal Khashoggi died in the consulate. Two Saudi senior officials are dismissed and King Salman announces the formation of a ministerial committee to restructure the intelligence services

20 October – Turkish officials vow to reveal all evidence relating to the killing

21 October -Saudi foreign minister tells Fox News it was a “rogue operation” and denies the crown prince ordered the “murder”