The body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been dissolved to aide the killers in hiding evidence of the murder, a top Turkish official said in remarks published Friday.
“According to the latest information we have, the reason they dismembered his body is to dissolve it easier,” Yasin Aktay, who advises Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and was a friend of Khashoggi’s, told the Hurriyet newspaper, according to Reuters.
This was the first time this detail has been mentioned. There was no immediate comment on the report from Turkish officials, Reuters said.
Saudi Arabia initially claimed Khashoggi left freely after visiting the consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to complete paperwork for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée.
But, as international pressure mounted, the kingdom said on Saturday that the Washington Post contributor and critic of the Saudi government died inside the mission when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.
But the kingdom later acknowledged that Khashoggi had in fact been murdered, as Turkish officials said all along. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir blamed the murder on a “rogue operation” by individuals who “exceeded their responsibilities” and then “tried to cover up for it.”
In the wake of Khashoggi killing, the kingdom sacked two top aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as well as three intelligence officials, and arrested 18 Saudi suspects.
However, Turkey and Western governments have said the Saudi explanations so far lack credibility, and that many questions still remain.
Britain and France are demanding more information about the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s killing, while US President Donald Trump has accused Riyadh of lying about the murder.
In Israel’s first public comments on the murder, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that while the killing was “horrendous,” it was still necessary to preserve stability in the Arab kingdom.
“What happened at the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. But at the same time, it is very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remain stable,” he said during a visit to Varna, Bulgaria.
“I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals. Because the larger problem I believe is Iran, and we have to make sure that Iran does not continue the malign activities that it has been engaged in over the last few weeks in Europe,” he said.
“We have helped uncover two terrorist attacks — one in Paris, and the other one in Copenhagen, organized by the Iranian secret service. Blocking Iran is at the top of our agenda for security, not merely for Israel but I believe for Europe and the world as well.”
Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the Washington Post reported that he had recently urged the White House to maintain its support for Salman amid growing criticism over the killing of Khashoggi.
Netanyahu told Trump administration officials that Salman was a key strategic partner and a linchpin of the alliance against Iranian encroachment in the region, according to the Post.
Israeli officials confirmed the Post’s report to the Ynet news site.
The Israeli leader had previously refrained from publicly weighing in on the murder by Saudi agents of Khashoggi, a journalist and regime critic, at the consulate. The murder has drawn withering criticism of Riyadh from around the world.