Saudi Arabia says that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, blaming a “rogue operation” for a killing that has sparked an international outcry.
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News the act was a “tremendous mistake” and denied the influential crown prince ordered the killing.
Saudi Arabia has been under pressure to explain what happened, having first said Mr Khashoggi was alive.
He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Turkish officials believe Mr Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building.
Saudi Arabia initially said he had left the building unharmed but on Friday admitted for the first time he was dead, saying that he was killed in a fight.
That claim though met widespread scepticism.
In his comments, Mr al-Jubeir described the incident as murder.
“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he added. “There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”
Media caption CCTV footage shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
He also said that they did not know where the body was, and insisted the action was not ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as Saudi Arabia’s most influential figure.
“Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.
Saudi Arabia says it arrested 18 people, sacked two aides of Mohammed bin Salman and set up a body, under his leadership, to reform the intelligence agency following the incident.
What has been the international reaction?
In a Washington Post interview on Saturday, US President Donald Trump said there had been “deception” and “lies” in Saudi Arabia’s explanation, having previously said he found their narrative to be credible.
He said he would “love” it if the Crown Prince was not responsible for the murder. The president has raised the possibility of imposing sanctions but said halting an arms deal would “hurt us more than it would hurt them”.
The UK, France and Germany issued a joint statement expressing shock at the death and demanding a full explanation, saying: “Nothing can justify this killing and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
Jamal Khashoggi: What we know about the journalist’s disappearance and death
Several of Saudi Arabia’s regional allies have come out in its support.
Kuwait praised King Salman for his handling of the case, while Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been among those reflecting similar praise.
Also on Sunday, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would reveal the “naked truth” of the matter in parliament on Tuesday.
Where is the investigation now?
Although Turkey has so far stopped short of officially blaming Saudi Arabia for the killing, investigators have said they have audio and video evidence which shows Mr Khashoggi, was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate.
Police have searched the nearby Belgrad forest in Istanbul where they believe the body may have been taken and one official was hopeful its fate would be known “before long”.
Both the consulate and the residence of the Saudi consul have been searched too.
Reuters reported on Sunday it had spoken to a Saudi official who said Mr Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to dispose of.
A Saudi operative then reportedly donned Mr Khashoggi’s clothes and left the consulate.
The official said Saudi statements had changed because of “false information reported internally at the time”.
Source: bbc news