Saudi authorities do not know where murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body is, despite having in custody the Saudi team that killed him, a high-ranking foreign affairs official in the kingdom said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
The dissident journalist was dismembered after his murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but his remains have yet to be found, AFP said.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir said the murder was carried out by Saudi officials “acting outside their scope of authority” and that 11 people have been charged with the crime.
Still, asked where Khashoggi’s body is, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “We don’t know.”
— Barbara Plett Usher (@BBCBarbaraPlett) February 8, 2019
Jubeir said the public prosecutor responsible for the case had sought evidence from Turkey but had received no response.
Questioned why those in custody couldn’t tell them where the body was, Jubeir responded: “We are still investigating.”
“We have now a number of possibilities and we’re asking them what they did with the body, and I think this investigation is ongoing, and I would expect that eventually we will find the truth,” he said.
Jubeir was interviewed on Friday, the same day President Donald Trump ignored a congressional deadline for reporting on who assassinated Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who had been openly critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
The CIA has concluded the Saudi operation was likely directed by the powerful crown prince, but the White House has sidestepped that finding amid strenuous denials by Riyadh, a key US ally.
A New York Times report on Friday said the CIA had intercepted communications of MBS telling a top aide in 2017 that he would go after Khashoggi “with a bullet” if the journalist did not return to Saudi Arabia.
“I’m not going to comment on reports based on anonymous sources,” Jubeir told CBS.
“The crown prince, we know, did not order this. This was not a government-sanctioned operation,” he said.
Still, MBS has had regular contact with Saud al-Qahtani, the alleged ringleader of the plot to murder Khashoggi, the Washington Post said last month in an opinion piece.
Bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to Qahtani – his closest adviser – in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment seen by the Wall Street Journal in December.
The Post opinion article, which cites unidentified US and Saudi officials, said that since Khashoggi’s death MBS has continued to seek advice from Qahtani and that Qahtani has met with senior members of his cybercommand agency.
Middle East Eye previously reported that Khashoggi was killed within seven minutes of entering the consulate on 2 October, and subsequently dismembered.
In November, one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top advisers told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that Khashoggi’s dismembered body had been dissolved in acid.
“We now see that it wasn’t just cut up, they got rid of the body by dissolving it,” Yasin Aktay said.
“According to the latest information we have, the reason they cut up the body is it was easier to dissolve it.”