The latest semi-official story, remember, is that he was killed accidentally when a chokehold designed to subdue him went too far. Then his body was allegedly rolled up into a rug and handed off to a “local cooperator” to dispose of. All of that contradicts the Turkish version of events: His murder was planned, he was killed and dismembered on-site at the consulate, then the Saudis themselves dumped the body, or what was left of it, somewhere. One report from the Middle East Eye site dated October 13th claimed that Turkish police were especially interested in the garden of the Saudi consul-general’s home, located just a few hundred yards away from the consulate.
In other words, according to MEE, Khashoggi’s remains might be buried in the consul-general’s literal backyard.
Now here’s Sky News claiming that body parts have been recovered. And guess what:
Body parts belonging to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been found, according to two Sky sources.
The sources have told Sky News the writer had been “cut up” and his face “disfigured”.
One source also suggested Mr Khashoggi’s remains were discovered in the garden of the Saudi consul general’s home – situated around 500 metres away from the consulate.
Two sources say they’ve found something, only one is willing to provide a location. Hmmmm. Maybe that detail is shaky, or maybe it’s being held back at the moment by Turkish officials as further leverage over the Saudis, to see what they might be willing to do to keep it a secret. After all, the only way this episode might further scandalize the Kingdom’s critics is if evidence emerged that Khashoggi’s killers had held on to some of his remains as a sort of trophy. Imagine Mohammed bin Salman relishing the sinister thought that one of his most prominent critics was now, quite literally, pushing up daisies in the garden of Saudi Arabia’s chief diplomat in Istanbul. In fact, Middle East Eye claims that some of Khashoggi’s severed fingers were smuggled back to Riyadh and presented to MBS, a symbolic gesture to show what happens to writers who criticize the prince. That smells like tabloid nonsense to further inflate an already sensational story but nothing would surprise me anymore.
Speaking of body parts and trophies, here’s how things went down after Khashoggi entered the consulate per Reuters’s sources:
According to one high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia’s royal court, [top MBS aide Saud al-]Qahtani was beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate via Skype.
He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the phone. According to the Arab and Turkish sources, Khashoggi answered Qahtani’s insults with his own. But he was no match for the squad, which included top security and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court.
A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog”, the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.
It’s unclear if he watched the carnage or if he hung up. I’m skeptical either way: The prince’s right-hand man dialing in on video chat from Riyadh to taunt the murder victim right before he’s liquidated feels way too “Bond supervillain” to be true. Although this might explain the cryptic detail that circulated early in the Khashoggi drama that Turkey had not just audio of the killing but some sort of video evidence too. That’s never been elaborated on, possibly because it’s untrue, possibly because it would require Turkey to reveal its methods of spying on foreign diplomats. But if Qahtani really did Skype in and the Turks hacked that transmission, they might conceivably not only have video of what Qahtani saw as it played out but video of him watching the scene play out. What better evidence of premeditation and royal complicity could one ask for, short of MBS himself being patched in? No wonder the Saudis felt obliged to ‘fess up and finally admit Khashoggi’s death if they had that kind of evidence hanging over them.
One more trophy for the crown prince. This one was taken alive:
Today, #JamalKhashoggi’s son Salah was forced to give the Crown Prince a photo op at the Royal Court. Look at his face. It’s important to note that Salah has been banned for over a year from leaving the Kingdom, he has not been able to mourn with his siblings who are US citizens. pic.twitter.com/lxKxaLHo7e
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 23, 2018
Yet another paper, the Daily Mail, is reporting today that MBS inner-circler Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb phoned the prince’s private office no fewer than seven times on the day Khashoggi disappeared. Why is that significant? Because Mutreb was caught on surveillance video entering the consulate in Istanbul a few hours before Khashoggi did; even the Saudi-friendly version of events that was leaked a few days ago to Reuters places Mutreb at the scene, naming him as the man who confronted Khashoggi and ordered him to return to Saudi Arabia before the fateful “fight” broke out. Was he phoning MBS to say “there’s been a mishap” or to say “mission accomplished”?
How much of this is BS, though, maybe only Erdogan and his lackeys know. Virtually all the sourcing on these spectacularly grisly stories comes (or appears to come) from Turkish officials, who naturally wouldn’t want to undermine Erdogan’s pressure campaign against the Kingdom. Even the stuff that doesn’t come from the Turks, like the report about Qahtani and the Skype call, might be originating with Arab diplomats who are hostile to the Saudis for whatever reason. Middle Eastern intrigue can be so thick as to be impenetrable. Even Sky News’s reporting seems iffy. They’re a reputable outfit but it makes no sense that the Saudis would leave parts of Khashoggi, particularly parts that might identify him like his head, on the grounds of the consulate or the consul-general’s home. As much as MBS might enjoy a trophy, the risk of the remains being discovered and the entire plot found out was simply too grave. The point of dismembering Khashoggi, one would think, was to make it easier to transport his remains. If the plan was simply to dump him in the garden, they’d have been better off leaving him intact and minimizing the blood at the scene.
Exit question: If it’s true that they’ve found him, will Erdogan release photos? As grotesque as that might be, his entire approach here has been to grind the Saudis’ faces in what happened. Nothing would do it like producing the body would.