Washington: Saudi Arabia is considering an admission that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died during an interrogation that went wrong, US media reported on Monday.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became increasingly critical of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been seen since he walked into the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate to sort out marriage paperwork on October 2.
Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed, a claim Saudi Arabia denies.
But CNN cited two sources as saying the Saudis are preparing a report that will acknowledge Khashoggi’s death resulted from an interrogation that went wrong during an intended abduction.
One CNN source cautioned that the report was still being prepared and could change, while another said it will likely conclude the operation took place without clearance, and that those involved will be held responsible.
The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said the kingdom is weighing whether to say that rogue operatives killed Khashoggi by mistake during an interrogation.
The Journal, like CNN, said the Saudi statement has not been finalized.
Khashoggi’s fate has troubled Washington and Saudi Arabia’s other traditional Western allies.
US President Donald Trump earlier Monday said he had spoken with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman who strongly denied the kingdom’s involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?” the president said, describing the situation as “terrible.”
Trump dispatched his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the kingdom on Monday to find out “first-hand what happened, what they know, what’s going on.
“He may go to Turkey. He may not,” Trump said during a visit to Alabama.
“He may meet with all of them together. But we want to find out what happened and he’s got instructions to find out what happened.”
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Pompeo was expected in Turkey on Wednesday to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, after talks in Riyadh.
Prince Mohammed, 33, a son of King Salman, consolidated his control in June 2017 when he was named Crown Prince to replace his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, who was fired.
Bin Nayef had extensive counter-terrorism expertise which had made him a favorite of previous American administrations.