A Saudi journalist is dead, and Turkish authorities believe he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The Saudi government acknowledged on Friday evening that Jamal Khashoggi died during an altercation inside the consulate. The revelation came after the Saudis gave conflicting accounts about the case during the nearly three weeks in which Khashoggi’s disappearance remained a mystery.
The 59-year-old journalist entered the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
Cengiz has said she waited for Khashoggi outside the consulate for roughly 11 hours but he never came out. She tweeted on Saturday: “Jamal is not dead. I cannot believe that he has been killed.”
Here’s a timeline of the events surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance and death.
Who is Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi, a prominent journalist who was often critical of the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wrote for The Washington Post’s global opinion section.
Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at The Post, told CNN on October 7: “We’re still hoping for the best, but of course this news, if true, has us all completely devastated. This is an attack on us as well at The Washington Post.”
Khashoggi has had a long, complicated career.
He went from interviewing a young Osama bin Laden in the 1980s to becoming one of the top journalists in his country to living in self-imposed exile.
Khashoggi was at one point an adviser to senior officials in the Saudi government and worked for top news outlets in the country. He was long seen as close to the ruling elite there.
But last year, Khashoggi had a falling out with the government over Prince Mohammed’s controversial tactics as he’s worked to consolidate his power, including arresting powerful business executives and members of the royal family.
The Saudi royal family also banned Khashoggi from writing after he was critical of President Donald Trump, and it drove Khashoggi to leave Saudi Arabia for the US in the summer of 2017.
In recent months, Khashoggi reportedly told colleagues that he had feared for his life.
After leaving Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi divided his time between London, Istanbul, and Virginia. He’s a US resident with a green card, but he is not a citizen.
The Post on Wednesday published an op-ed article Khashoggi filed shortly before his disappearance.
In it, Khashoggi called for a free press in the Arab world. Attiah, who edited the article, wrote a note at the top.
“I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul,” Attiah said. “The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post.”
She added that Khashoggi’s article “perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world.”
What Saudi Arabia has said about Khashoggi’s disappearance
Saudi officials previously claimed Khashoggi left the consulate.
“Mr. Khashoggi visited the consulate to request paperwork related to his marital status and exited shortly thereafter,” an unnamed Saudi official told The New York Times earlier this month.
The Saudi government previously denied allegations that Khashoggi was killed, describing them as “baseless.”
Prince Mohammed earlier this month told Bloomberg News that Turkish authorities were welcome to search the consulate. “We have nothing to hide,” he said.
“He’s a Saudi citizen, and we are very keen to know what happened to him,” he added. “And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.”
When asked whether there were any charges against Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed said, “Actually, we need to know where Jamal is first.”
The Saudi ambassador to the US told The Post on October 8 that it would be “impossible” for consulate employees to kill Khashoggi and cover up his death “and we wouldn’t know about it.”
The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV network on October 11 aired a report claiming that 15 men said to be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance weren’t sent to Istanbul for the purpose of capturing or killing him but were just tourists.
Turkish media has reported that the men arrived at Istanbul’s airport on October 2, the day Khashoggi went missing, and left Turkey later that night.
Days before it officially announced Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia said it would release a report claiming he was killed
Before it acknowledged on Friday that Khashoggi had indeed died, Saudi Arabia said it was preparing to release a report claiming Khashoggi was killed as part of a botched interrogation, CNN reported on Monday, citing two sources who said the interrogation was supposed to result in Khashoggi’s abduction from Turkey.
The Saudi government’s statement released Friday makes no mention of Khashoggi having been killed.
One source told CNN that the report was likely to say the operation was conducted without clearance or transparency and vow to hold those involved accountable. According to the Saudi government’s explanation released Friday night, 18 Saudi officials were detained in connection with Khashoggi’s death.
A Daily Beast report on Tuesday suggested that the Saudis planned to scapegoat an unnamed two-star general and claim that he botched a plan to interrogate Khashoggi and accidentally killed him.
The Times published a related report on Thursday that said the Saudis planned to blame a general with ties to Prince Mohammed. The Times identified the general as Ahmed al-Assiri, who was promoted to intelligence by the crown prince late last year after having worked as the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
What Turkey has said about Khashoggi’s disappearance
Turkish officials have accused the Saudis of killing Khashoggi, saying there’s no evidence he ever left the consulate.
A high-level Turkish official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that police who entered the consulate found “certain evidence” that Khashoggi was killed there.
Turkey has been putting a great deal of pressure on Saudi Arabia to be more transparent.
On October 8, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Saudi officials provide proof that Khashoggi left the consulate.
“Do you not have cameras and everything of the sort?” Erdogan said. “They have all of them. Then why do you not prove this? You need to prove it.”
Throughout the investigation, there have been somewhat conflicting messages from Turkey on Khashoggi’s disappearance as details of what might have happened to him have been gradually leaked to media outlets.
In a report on October 9, The Times described a senior official as saying Turkey had concluded Khashoggi was killed “on orders from the highest levels” of the Saudi royal court.
But Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan, said on October 10 that “the Saudi state is not blamed here,” suggesting that “a deep state” was responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance.
On October 11, Erdogan increased pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“We cannot remain silent to such an incident,” Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media as telling reporters, according to The Post.
“How is it possible for a consulate, an embassy not to have security camera systems? Is it possible for the Saudi Arabian consulate where the incident occurred not to have camera systems?” he continued.
“If a bird flew, if a mosquito appeared, these systems would catch them,” he said, adding that he believed that the Saudis “would have the most advanced of systems.”
What we know about the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and death
There appears to be video footage of Khashoggi entering the consulate, but no footage of him leaving has been made public. Turkish officials have said that some footage from the consulate mysteriously disappeared.
Local police were examining video footage from security cameras in the area, and on Monday police entered the consulate to investigate for the first time. Erdogan said on Tuesday that investigators found some surfaces that had been newly painted over.
Turkish officials allege that the Saudi government sent a 15-man team to Istanbul via private jets to kill Khashoggi at the consulate. The AP described Turkish media as saying the team included “Saudi royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers, and an autopsy expert.”
Turkish media published what it claimed were videos of Saudi intelligence officers entering and leaving Turkey via Istanbul’s airport.
Citing an unnamed US official, The Post reported on October 7 that Turkish investigators believed Khashoggi was killed and his body most likely dismembered, placed in boxes, and flown out of the country. But some reports also suggest Khashoggi’s body may have been dissolved with acid.
The senior official who spoke to The Times said Turkish officials believed the team used a bone saw to dismember his body.
The Guardian reported last week that officials were looking for a black van with diplomatic number plates that was seen departing the consulate roughly two hours after Khashoggi went in. They also believe Khashoggi’s Apple Watch could provide clues about what happened to him, though experts have cast doubt on that claim.
A Post report published on October 11 described several unnamed Turkish and US officials as saying the Turkish government told US officials it had audio and video recordings suggesting that a team of Saudis killed Khashoggi.
The newspaper quoted one official as saying the audio recording indicated that Khashoggi was “interrogated, tortured, and then murdered,” adding that both Khashoggi’s voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic could be heard on the recording.
The recording “lays out what happened to Jamal after he entered,” The Post’s source said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Turkish officials shared with the US and Saudi Arabia details of an audio recording said to illustrate how Khashoggi was beaten, drugged, and ultimately killed in the Saudi consul general’s office minutes after entering the consulate.
The Journal described people familiar with the matter as saying the recording included a voice that could be heard urging the consul to leave the room, as well as a voice of a person Turkish officials identified as a forensic specialist urging people nearby to listen to music as he dismembered the body.
In a Times report on Wednesday, a senior Turkish official described audio recordings suggesting that Khashoggi’s fingers were cut off shortly after he arrived at the consul and that he was eventually beheaded.
A Turkish official on Friday said investigators were looking into the possibility that Khashoggi’s remains were taken to a nearby forest or to another city in the country.
What Trump and the White House have said about the Khashoggi case
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement on Friday after the Saudi government announced Khashoggi’s death:
The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far.
We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process. We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.
US President Donald Trump initially expressed concern about the Khashoggi case, but he has shifted to defending Saudi leaders while exhibiting a reluctance to punish them.
On October 8, he told reporters that he was “concerned about” Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out,” Trump said. “Right now nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.”
During an interview with “Fox & Friends” on October 11, Trump said that “we’re probably getting closer than you might think” to finding out what happened to Khashoggi.
“We have investigators over there, and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “We want to find out what happened. He went in, and it doesn’t look like he came out. It certainly doesn’t look like he’s around.”
There is reason to doubt the president’s claim that the US has investigators in Turkey. FBI guidelines say it can investigate in other countries only if they request assistance. Foreign Policy reported on October 11 that it seemed Turkey had so far not done that.
Trump added in the interview that US-Saudi relations were “excellent.”
In an interview with Fox News on October 10, the president seemed reluctant to guarantee repercussions against the Saudis — especially in terms of US arms sales to the country — if it turned out that they harmed Khashoggi.
“I think that would be hurting us,” he said of stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “We have jobs. We have a lot of things happening in this country … Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems, and everybody is wanting them, and frankly I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.”
During the interview, Trump said that it was “looking a little bit like” Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance but that “we’re going to have to see.”
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, Trump said that “we would be very upset and angry” if it turned out the Saudis were involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance, adding that the Saudis “deny it every way you can imagine.”
The president also reiterated concerns about the economic impact of reducing arms sales to the Saudis.
“I tell you what I don’t want to do: Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon … I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that,” he said. “There are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”
Trump on Wednesday said he’d contacted Turkish officials and requested audio and video related to the case, “if it exists.”
“I’m not sure yet that it exists,” Trump said. “Probably does. Possibly does.”
When asked whether he had sent the FBI to investigate, Trump said, “Why would I tell you?”
Trump also stressed the fact that Khashoggi was not a US citizen as he boasted about billions of dollars in planned US arms sales to the Saudis.
When asked by reporters on Thursday whether he believes Khashoggi is dead, Trump said, “It certainly looks that way to me.”
The president also said there would be “very severe” consequences if investigations into Khashoggi’s disappearance conclude the Saudis are responsible.
“We’re waiting for the results of about — there are three different investigations, and we should be able to get to the bottom fairly soon,” Trump said at the time, adding that he plans to make a “very strong statement” once they’ve concluded.
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted about the case last week.
“Deeply troubled to hear reports about Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If true, this is a tragic day,” he said. “Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The free world deserves answers.”
Khashoggi’s fiancée has called on Trump to do more
Cengiz urged Trump in an op-ed article for The Post, published on October 9, to “shed light” on his disappearance.
“At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” Cengiz wrote.
She added that she and Khashoggi “were in the middle of making wedding plans, life plans,” when he disappeared.
On October 10, Trump said that he had spoken with the Saudi government about Khashoggi and that he was working closely with the Turkish government to get to the bottom of what happened. He would not say whether he believed the Saudis were responsible for the journalist’s disappearance.
The president also said he invited Cengiz to the White House.
Cengiz wrote in an op-ed article for The Times published on October 13: “In recent days, I saw reports about President Trump wanting to invite me to the White House. If he makes a genuine contribution to the efforts to reveal what happened inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that day, I will consider accepting his invitation.”
The Trump administration has had a close relationship with the Saudis, and US-Turkey relations have been strained in recent months over the imprisonment of an American pastor, though he was released on October 12.
Trump suggested ‘rogue killers’ could be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance
After a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Trump on Monday suggested, without evidence, that “rogue killers” could be behind Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Trump said the king flatly denied any involvement.
“It sounded to me like maybe these could be rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows?”
On Tuesday, Trump escalated his defense of the Saudis, suggesting in an interview with the AP that the criticism leveled against the government was another instance of “guilty until proven innocent.”
“Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he said. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
In an interview with Fox Business that aired Tuesday evening, Trump said it “would be bad” if it turned out that the Saudis were behind Khashoggi’s disappearance, but he emphasized the US-Saudi relationship.
“Saudi Arabia’s our partner, our ally against Iran,” Trump said. “They’ve been a great ally to me.”
Pompeo went to Saudi Arabia to discuss the case with the king
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Tuesday morning to discuss the Khashoggi case with King Salman.
A State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, told The Times that Pompeo “thanked the king for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”
Later in the day, Pompeo met with Prince Mohammed for roughly 35 to 40 minutes.
“We are strong and old allies,” the crown prince told reporters as he met with Pompeo. “We face our challenges together.”
After his meetings, Pompeo said the Saudi leadership “strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul.”
“We had direct and candid conversations,” Pompeo said. “I emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation, and the Saudi leadership pledged to deliver precisely on that.”
The secretary of state said he believed there was a “serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials.”
Pompeo added: “We’re going to give them the space to complete the investigation of this incident.”
The US received a $100 million payment from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. The timing of the payment raises questions, but the State Department said it had no connection to Pompeo’s visit.
After returning to the US, Pompeo said on Thursday that he told Trump the US “ought to give” the Saudis “a few more days” to complete an investigation before deciding “how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi.”
“There are lots of stories out there about what has happened,” Pompeo said at the White House. “We are going to allow the process to move forward.”
Late Thursday, ABC News cited a senior Turkish official as saying the Turks let Pompeo listen to audio and view a transcript offering evidence that Khashoggi was killed. Pompeo promptly denied ever hearing or seeing such a recording, and Ankara’s top diplomat subsequently denied supplying any audio to the secretary of state.
The US intelligence community reportedly knew about a Saudi plot to capture Khashoggi
A Post report on October 10 said US intelligence intercepts showed that Prince Mohammed sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there.
The newspaper said the intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan were described by US officials familiar with the intelligence.
Under a directive signed in 2015, the US intelligence community has a “duty to warn” people — including those who are not US citizens — who it believes are at risk of being kidnapped, seriously hurt, or killed. This directive has become a central aspect of the conversation about the US’s response to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider. A representative for the National Security Council declined to comment.
But a State Department spokesman, Robert Palladino, told reporters that the US government did not have prior knowledge of a Saudi plot to capture or harm Khashoggi.
“Although I cannot comment on intelligence matters, I can say definitively the United States had no advanced knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance,” he said.
Trump is under mounting pressure to address the situation more forcefully
Senators on both sides of the aisle earlier expressed serious concerns about Khashoggi’s disappearance. Those who commented on Friday about the Saudi government’s announcement of Khashoggi’s death expressed doubt about the official Saudi explanation.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he believes the Saudis are “buying time and buying cover.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is also the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said: “The announcement that Jamal Khashoggi was killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible. If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him.”
Schiff continued: “The Kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump Administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”
Nearly two dozen senators sent a letter to Trump on October 10 invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016.
The letter — written by Sens. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Bob Menendez, its ranking Democrat — gave the White House 120 days to “determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.”
At the end of 120 days, the letter said, Trump is to report back to the committee on the investigation’s findings and how his administration plans to respond.
“We request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi,” the senators wrote. “Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”
The letter paves the way for sanctions to be imposed on Saudi Arabia and puts pressure on Trump to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Speaking with reporters about the letter, Corker said, “It’s the forcing mechanism to ensure that we use all the resources available to get the bottom of this, and if in fact at the very highest levels of Saudi Arabia they have been involved in doing this, that appropriate steps will be taken to sanction them.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Senate Republican, called for the crown prince to step away from the world stage, describing him as “toxic” in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” last Thursday morning.
Other Republican senators, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ben Sasse, have also been deeply critical of Saudi Arabia and the US’s relationship with it in the wake of Khashoggi’s appearance.
“It’s time to rethink America’s relationship with the Saudi Kingdom,” Paul wrote in an op-ed article for Fox News.
“We can start by cutting the Saudis off,” he added. “We should not send one more dime, one more soldier, one more adviser, or one more arms deal to the kingdom.”
The UN is calling for an investigation by Saudi Arabia into the Khashoggi case
Meanwhile, UN experts have called for an independent and international investigation into the case.
“We are concerned that the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi is directly linked to his criticism of Saudi policies in recent years,” they said in a statement on October 9. “We reiterate our repeated calls on the Saudi authorities to open the space for the exercise of fundamental rights, including the right to life and of expression and dissent.”