One month on, what we know and don't know about Khashoggi killing
Today marks one month since Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi walked into Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul and vanished. We now know, through international reporting, Saudi admissions, and leaks from Turkish officials and media, that he was killed. Beyond that, there is a great deal of uncertainty.
Here is a timeline, primarily sourced from Al Jazeera:
Friday, September 28: Khashoggi visits the consulate to obtain the documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. He is told to come back four days later.
October 2: Khashoggi returns, tells Cengiz to wait outside and enters the building at 1:14 pm, according to security footage. Three hours later, Cengiz asks consulate security staff about Khashoggi's whereabouts and is told he had left through the back door.
October 5: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says Khashoggi "entered and got out after a few minutes or one hour. I'm not sure."
October 6: An unnamed Turkish official says police believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate by a 15-member team of Saudi agents. Saudi Consul-General Mohammad al-Otaibi tells reporters that security cameras did not record any footage on the day of the disappearance.
October 8: While U.S. President Donald Trump expresses concern, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls for "an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible."
October 10-11: Turkish media publish footage of the alleged Saudi hit squad, and news outlets identify nine of its members. A handful are directly linked to Prince Mohammed, as part of his security and intelligence teams. One is a forensics expert newspapers said brought with him a bone saw, later used to dismember Khashoggi.
The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications of Saudi officials planning to abduct Khashoggi. Turkish officials say they have recordings of Khashoggi's final moments inside the consulate, on which he is "interrogated, tortured, and then murdered".
October 15: Turkish authorities search the consulate and say they have found evidence to support their allegations of murder. Trump says "rogue killers" may be to blame for Khashoggi's death.
October 20: After countless denials, Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate on October 2, but that it had been unintentional -- the result of either an operation gone wrong or a misunderstood order. Eighteen Saudi nationals are arrested and five officials are fired.
October 22: Ousted Prince Mohammed’s Media Adviser Saud al-Qahtani managed Khashoggi's interrogation and killing via Skype, according to Reuters. Footage is published showing a Khashoggi body double leaving the consulate in the journalist's clothes.
October 23: In a highly anticipated speech to Turkey's parliament, Erdoğan says Khashoggi's murder was planned and demands answers about what happened to the body. Trump calls the Saudi response "the worst cover-up ever."
October 27: Saudi Arabia decides not to extradite the 18 suspects to Turkey to face trial.
October 31: Turkish officials say Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate, and then dismembered. This conflicts with Turkey's earlier reports that he had been interrogated and tortured.
Here's a look at what remains unknown, with help from The Atlantic:
Who gave the order?
Saudi Arabia's account of the incident has changed several times. Its current version is that the killing was indeed premeditated, but that the intelligence agents had gone rogue - they were not acting under orders from Prince Mohammed or any other top official. If this is true, who gave the order? And is it possible that half a dozen members of Prince Mohammed's security detail were in Istanbul to kill Khashoggi and their boss knew nothing about it?
When will Turkey release the tape?
If Turkey has recordings of Khashoggi's killing, why does it not release them? That audio would seem to clarify what happened in Khashoggi's final moments, even if it fails to reveal who gave the order. Turkish officials reportedly played the tape for CIA Director Gina Haspel on her recent visit.
Where is the body?
The Saudis say Khashoggi's body was rolled up in a rug and handed over to a "local co-operator" for disposal. If so, why has Saudi Arabia not shared the name and contact information of this body removal outfit, which could explain what it did with the body? The U.S. State Department has called for the body to be found and returned to the family.
Turkish officials have mentioned Saudi agents visiting Belgrade Forest, in Istanbul, and a wooded area of Yalova, some 90 km away. Have those areas been searched?
What happens next?
A joint Saudi-Turkish investigation is ongoing, but most observers see it as unlikely to provide definitive answers or lead to prosecution. “There is a forming narrative that is being shaped between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and that’s symptomatic of them trying to come to some kind of agreement,” Neil Quilliam, a Middle East expert at Chatham House, told The Atlantic.
There is also the question of how all this might impact Saudi Arabia’s global standing. Several key allies and business partners boycotted last month’s investment conference in Riyadh. Germany and Austria have called for halting Saudi arm sales, while the United States and France have decided against such a response.
Meanwhile, many observers have called for an impartial international investigation, perhaps from the United Nations. Khashoggi's fiancée is keeping up the pressure. “I want justice to be served,” she said at a memorial in London this week. “Not only for those who murdered my beloved Jamal, but for those who organised it and gave the order for it.”