Khashoggi murder ‘happened under my watch,’ Saudi crown prince says

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince says he takes responsibility for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder because it ‘happened under my watch’ in his first public comments about the incident

  • Mohammed bin Salman said death of Jamal Khashoggi ‘happened on my watch’
  • Crown prince made his first public comments about the killing after nearly a year
  • Khashoggi was slaughtered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 
  • CIA said Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder but Saudis deny the claims

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said he bears responsibility for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by Saudi operatives ‘because it happened under my watch’. 

The comments by Mohammed bin Salman are the first public statements made the kingdom’s de facto ruler about the killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

Bin Salman’s interview will be broadcast next week as part of a new PBS documentary.

The CIA and some Western governments have said he ordered it, but Saudi officials say he had no role.

The death sparked a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image and imperilling ambitious plans to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter and open up cloistered Saudi society. 

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jeddah earlier this month 

Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018

CCTV shows Jamal Khashoggi entering Saudi consulate to collect divorce papers ahead of his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancee. He was not seen leaving the compound 

Since the killing bin Salman has not visited the United States or Europe.

‘It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch,’ he told PBS’ Martin Smith, according to a preview of a documentary, ‘The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’, set to air on October 1, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi’s death.

After initial denials, the official Saudi narrative blamed the murder on rogue operatives. 

The public prosecutor said the then-deputy intelligence chief ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, a royal insider who became an outspoken critic, but the lead negotiator ordered him killed after discussions for his return failed.

Saud al-Qahtani, a former top royal adviser who reportedly gave orders over Skype to the killers, briefed the hit team on Khashoggi’s activities before the operation, the prosecutor said.

Asked how the killing could happen without him knowing about it, Smith quotes Prince Mohammed as saying: ‘We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees.’ 

Weeks after Khashoggi’s death in October 2018, bin Salman called the killing ‘heinous’ and promised it would be investigated. 

During this time his government maintained that the leader had no knowledge of the ‘rogue operation’ carried out by a 15-strong Saudi ‘death squad’. 

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October last year when he went to pick up divorce documents so he could marry his Turkish fiancee

Turkish police officers arrived at the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last October as teams swept the building in search of the writer’s remains 

Smith asked whether the killers could have taken private government jets, to which the crown prince responded: ‘I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible. They have the authority to do that.’

Smith describes the December exchange, which apparently took place off camera, in the preview of the documentary.

A senior US administration official said in June the Trump administration was pressing Riyadh for ‘tangible progress’ toward holding to account those behind the killing ahead.

Eleven Saudi suspects have been put on trial in secretive proceedings but only a few hearings have been held. 

A UN report has called for Prince Mohammed and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding. 

His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.

The journalist had decided to leave his native Saudi Arabia for the US in September 2017, but was lured to the embassy in Istanbul on in October this year to collect papers for his upcoming marriage. 

Listening devices planted inside the building by Turkish intelligence captured the ‘kill squad’ planning the murder in the days before and carrying it out.

A report by the Washington Post, to which Khashoggi was a contributing columnist, says that when he arrived at the consulate a member of the team asked ‘whether he would take tea’.

Khashoggi’s final gasps for air are audible on the tape recordings, officials told the Washington Post. 

Further reports quoting those who have listened to the recordings claim Khashoggi’s last words were to tell his killers ‘I can’t breathe’. 

Just moments after his gasps faded, the silence on the tape gives way to the sound of an electric saw, consistent with reports that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered. His remains have never been found.

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