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.