Saudi Arabia now says that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, blaming a “rogue operation” for the killing that sparked international outrage.
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News that it was a “tremendous mistake” and denied that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman ordered the killing.
Saudi Arabia first said Khashoggi was alive and later changed their statement to say he had been killed in a “fight”. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Reuters reported on Sunday it had spoken to a Saudi official who said Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to dispose of.
Related: Saudi Arabia says Jamal Khashoggi died in a ‘fight’ and the US believes them
Turkish officials believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building.
In his comments, al-Jubeir described the incident as murder. “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,” he added. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”
He also said that they did not know where the body was, insisting that the action was not ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.
Related: Saudi Arabia says it doesn’t know where Jamal Khashoggi’s body is
Saudi Arabia says it arrested 18 people, sacked two aides of Mohammed bin Salman and set up a body, under his leadership, to reform the intelligence agency following the incident.
Both King Salman and the crown prince called Khashoggi’s son on Sunday to express their condolences over his death, the Saudi Press Agency reports.
US President Donald Trump also went back on his earlier statement where he said he found the kingdom’s explanation credible. He told The Washington Post that there had been “deception” and “lies” in Saudi Arabia’s explanation.
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”.