Saudi Hit Squad Included Khashoggi Body Double, Reports Claim

Yet more evidence against the Saudis in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

CNN is reporting that the fifteen person team that arrived in Istanbul the day that Jamal Khashoggi disappeared brought along someone intended to pose as a body double for the slain journalist, in an apparent effort to bolster the claim they made immediately after his disappearance on October 2nd:

One member of the 15-man team suspected in the death of Jamal Khashoggi dressed up in his clothes and was captured on surveillance cameras around Istanbul on the day the journalist was killed, a senior Turkish official has told CNN.

CNN has obtained exclusive law enforcement surveillance footage, part of the Turkish government’s investigation, that appears to show the man leaving the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, a fake beard, and glasses.

The same man was seen in Khashoggi’s clothing, according to the Turkish case, at the city’s world-famous Blue Mosque just hours after the journalist was last seen alive entering the consulate on October 2.

The man in the video, identified by the official as Mustafa al-Madani, was allegedly part of what investigators have said was a hit squad, sent to kill the journalist at the Saudi consulate during a scheduled appointment to get papers for his upcoming wedding.

Saudi Arabia has presented a shifting narrative of what happened to Khashoggi. After weeks of denying involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi Arabia said that he was killed in the Istanbul consulate, saying his death was the result of a “fistfight.” A Saudi source close to the royal palace later told CNN that the Washington Post journalist died in a chokehold. On Sunday, its foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, went further, describing Khashoggi’s death on Fox News as a “murder” and a “tremendous mistake.” He also said they “don’t know where the body is.”

“We are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts. And we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” he said in the interview.


In the apparent cover-up that followed Khashoggi’s death, Madani, 57, who is of similar height, age and build to Khashoggi, 59, was used as a decoy for the journalist, according to the Turkish official.

A senior Turkish official told CNN that the video showed that Madani was brought to Istanbul to act as a body double.

“You don’t need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation,” the official said. “Our assessment has not changed since October 6. This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate.”

A Saudi source would not confirm or deny that Madani was sent to act as a body double, though he emphasized that the killing of Khashoggi was not intentional.

Madani, a decade older than the other members of the 15-man team, exited the consulate building by the back door along with an alleged accomplice. Madani was wearing what the video appears to show to be Khashoggi’s dark blazer, gray shirt opened at the collar and trousers.

Four hours earlier Madani had entered the consulate by the front door, alongside an alleged accomplice. Saudi’s forensic medicine chief Salah al-Tubaiqi, another key suspect who was identified using facial recognition analysis together with CNN’s timeline of events that day, was also present. The video appears to show Madani without a beard, wearing a blue and white checked shirt and dark blue trousers.

When he exited the consulate dressed as Khashoggi, the video then appears to show him wearing the same dark pair of sneakers with white soles that he first arrived in prior to the journalist’s death.

“Khashoggi’s clothes were probably still warm when Madani put them on,” the senior Turkish official told CNN.

As the camera still from the video footage shows above, Madani does bear a resemblance to Khashoggi, and he does appear to be wearing the same clothes that Khashoggi was when he entered the embassy. Given this, the only logical conclusion that one can reach is that Khashoggi was stripped of his clothing at some point, most likely before he was murdered so that there would be no apparent blood evidence on them, and that Madini was sent out into Istanbul principally for the purpose of backing up the story that the Saudis were spreading in the immediate days after Khashoggi’s disappearance that he had left the consulate not long after arriving. What is potentially interesting, though, is the fact that the Saudis never bothered to release footage showing the faux Khashoggi leaving the consulate through the back door. It’s possible, though, that the story regarding his disappearance had spun out of their control so quickly that they realized that trying to spin this lie any further would not have been worthwhile. Perhaps the reason that they didn’t realize that Madani was wearing different footwear from what Khashoggi was wearing when he arrived at the consulate, a fact that cannot easily be explained if they had tried to use photographs of Madini as evidence that, as far as they knew, Khashoggi was still alive. It’s also possible that Saudi authorities didn’t realize that Khashoggi’s fiance was outside the consulate waiting for him and that she likely would have been able to easily tell that Madini was not her fiance.

Whatever the reason this particular piece of evidence was never put forward by the Saudis, the fact that one of the members of the team that was brought to Istanbul in connection with this operation was someone clearly intended to act as a “body double” for Khashoggi and at least create the appearance that whatever had happened to him happened after he left the consulate. This is further evidence, of course, that the intention of the operation was to kill Khashoggi rather than “merely” kidnapping him and further pokes holes in the Saudi claims that this was some kind of amateur operation conducted without the knowledge or permission of the Crown Prince. Instead, this appears to have been a well-planned assassination complete with a participant who could have cast significant doubt on the assertion that Khashoggi never left the consulate alive. It’s not a smoking gun but taken together with all the other evidence it certainly seems to lead to only one logical conclusion, which is that the plan all along was to kill Khashoggi.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. CSK says:

    If the Saudis hadn’t intended to kill Khashoggi, why would they have included in the entourage an autopsy specialist equipped with a bone saw? Have they explained that yet?

  2. KM says:

    Even their own BS story works against them – If the Saudis hadn’t intended to kill Khashoggi, why would they have had a body double available? What are the chances somebody present just “happened” to be the right body size, let alone similarly looking enough?

  3. Kathy says:

    I mentioned in a prior comment the lack of a look-alike to create some plausible doubt. I was wrong. But the way the Saudis went about it was just stupid on many levels.

    There’s the different footwear. One does not change clothes, especially shoes, in a public building. It’s a dead giveaway. Then why didn’t they have a man or two following/watching Khashoggi before he entered the consulate? you’d assume a dissident would distrust the government they dissent from, especially one as informed as Khashoggi, who had connections inside Saudi Arabia, and who was an active journalist. Of course he’d take some precaution like having a companion wait outside.

    Someone could have gone and met his fiancee, and told her something like “Hey, Jamal remembered some urgent appointment and left though the backdoor to catch a cab. he said he’d be home around supper.” And if you’d been watching him before, you’d know whether he arrived in a cab, a bus, a car,walking, etc. That delays any call to the local authorities for a while.

    As it is, the Saudis looked like a bank robber who goes to his usual branch brandishing a gun, greets the cashier and the security guard, robs the bank, says goodbye to the cashier and the security guard, drives away in his own car, goes straight home, then claims he found a sack of money on the floor and he just always carries that gun around.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Instead, this appears to have been a well-planned assassination

    I have to take exception to the “well planned” above. It was planned, perhaps even meticulously so, but it was also the most comically inept and transparent assassination I have ever read of. The stupidity with which it was carried out is matched only by the hubris exhibited by them in thinking nobody would ever question their collapsed house of cards story.

  5. Timothy Watson says:


    There’s the different footwear. One does not change clothes, especially shoes, in a public building. It’s a dead giveaway.

    I think the most telling difference is that Khashoggi is bald and the double isn’t.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    What really impresses me from all this stupidity in planning and carrying out a political ‘disappearance’ is that the Saudi’s are going to be trying to market their Sovereign Wealth Fund to the world, right? And asking the world to trust their management of it, ok?

    Would you invest with them?

  7. Gustopher says:

    That is such a terrible body double that I almost question whether he is a body double. He has too much hair, for instance — something you would expect they would remedy with some scissors.

    Are there photos of him before the slaughter? It’s possible that he just stole Khashoggi’s clothes because they were better than his, and then went sight seeing with the couple of hours he had to spare. It’s tacky, but this entire operation has a pretty tacky feel to it.

    Or they really flubbed the body double.

  8. Lounsbury says:

    To be frank, at this level of incompetence, it is hard to tell… however MBS again was the idiot who thought that he could get away with essentially kidnapping the President of Lebanon by summoning him to Saudi and forcing a change of government, in public.

    A spectacular idiocy.

    So … it’s not quite possible to eliminate a spectacularly bad job at body doubling…