Amid scepticism, Saudi official provides another version of Khashoggi death

RIYADH (Reuters) - As Saudi Arabia faced intensifying international skepticism over its story about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a senior government official laid out a new version of the death inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that in key respects contradicts previous explanations.

The latest account, provided by a Saudi official who requested anonymity, includes details on how the team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi on Oct. 2 had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and then killed him in a chokehold when he resisted. A member of the team then dressed in Khashoggi's clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate.

After denying any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, 59, for two weeks, Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning said he had died in a fistfight at the consulate. An hour later, another Saudi official attributed the death to a chokehold, which the senior official reiterated.

RELATED: Demonstrators protest disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

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Demonstrators protest disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 12 : A group of people hold pictures of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Safvan Allahverdi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People hold signs at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia during protest about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington. Standing center is David Barrows with Code Pink, wearing a mask of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo, people hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Washington. The Trump administration’s ongoing courtship of Saudi Arabia is on pause over allegations that the key U.S. ally is involved in the mysterious disappearance of a Saudi writer and dissident who went into his nation’s consulate in Turkey but never came out. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File )
Activists, members of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holding posters with photos of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, talk to members of the media, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. The poster reads in Turkish: ' Jamal Khashoggi, missing since October 2, 2018'. Khashoggi disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate to obtain paperwork required for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish officials have alleged he was killed in the compound while Saudis officials said he left the building unharmed. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An activist, member of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holds a poster with a photo of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, a week after he vanished during a visit there. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Photographers take pictures of an activist, a member of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holding a poster with a photo of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, during a protest in his support, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, a week after he vanished during a visit there. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Members of he media cover a news announcement/protest by activists, members of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, in support of the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, a week after he vanished during a visit there. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
An activist, member of the Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, holds a poster with a photo of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, during a protest in his support near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Khashoggi disappeared a week ago after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate to obtain paperwork required for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkey said Tuesday it will search the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, a week after he vanished during a visit there. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 file photo, members of the Turkish-Arab Journalist Association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul. The disappearance of Khashoggi, during a visit to his country’s consulate in Istanbul last week, raises a dark question for anyone who dares criticize governments or speak out against those in power: Will the world have their back? (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Khashoggi, 59, went missing on Oct 2 while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials. He had been living since last year in the U.S. in a self-imposed exile, in part due to the rise of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist Association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Khashoggi, 59, went missing on Oct 2 while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials. He had been living since last year in the U.S. in a self-imposed exile, in part due to the rise of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist Association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.Turkish officials have said they believe that the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was slain in "a preplanned murder" at the kingdom's consulate and that his body was later removed. Saudi officials have denied the allegations as baseless.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Khashoggi, 59, went missing on Oct 2 while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials. He had been living since last year in the U.S. in a self-imposed exile, in part due to the rise of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Members of the Turkish-Arab journalist association hold posters with photos of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, as they hold a protest near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. Khashoggi, 59, went missing on Oct 2 while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials. He had been living since last year in the U.S. in a self-imposed exile, in part due to the rise of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
CCTV cameras and a Saudi Arabian flag are seen on Police fence during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters hold a portrait of missing journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi reading 'Jamal Khashoggi is missing since October 2' during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 9, 2018 in Istanbul. - Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished last on October 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate to receive official documents ahead of his marriage to a Turkish woman. A Turkish government source told AFP at the weekend that the police believe the journalist 'was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day'. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi are seen on Police fence during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Saudi official opens the door of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul during a demonstration for missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Saudi official looks through the door of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul during a demonstration for missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Saudi woman gestures as she waits to enter the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 8, 2018 during a demonstration for missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman (C) holds a picture of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi as she speaks to medias during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman speaks to media on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman (C) speaks to media on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman (2nd L) speaks to media on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Saudi woman enters the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 8, 2018 during a demonstration for missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Egyptian opposition politican Ayman Nour (L) speaks to media on missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Representatives of non-governmental organization hold pictures of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Representatives of non-governmental organization hold pictures of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Representatives of non-governmental organization hold pictures of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Representatives of non-governmental organization hold pictures of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Saudi woman gives her passport to a staff of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl holds a picture of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Media members work during a demonstration for missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman (R), flanked by Egytian opposition politican Ayman Nour (L), speaks during a press conference as they hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. Turkey has sought permission to search Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul after a prominent journalist from the kingdom went missing last week following a visit to the building, Turkish television reported on October 8. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: Media crowd around as people hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the outside Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: Media crowd around as people hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the outside Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: Media crowd around as people hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the outside Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: A man holds a poster during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to Saudi Arabia's consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Fears are growing over the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after Turkish officials said they believe he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 05: People hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabia Consulate on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Consulate officials have said that missing writer and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing after leaving the consulate, however the statement directly contradicts other sources including Turkish officials who believe that the writer is still inside and being held by Saudi officials. Jamal Khashoggi a Saudi writer critical of the Kingdom and a contributor to the Washington Post was living in self -imposed exile in the U.S. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A protestor holds a picture of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate, on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protestors hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate, on October 5, 2018 in Istanbul. - Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist who has been critical towards the Saudi government has gone missing after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Washington Post reported. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Turkish officials suspect the body of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was cut up but the Saudi official said it was rolled up in a rug and given to a "local cooperator" for disposal. Asked about allegations that Khashoggi had been tortured and beheaded, he said preliminary results of the investigation did not suggest that.

The Saudi official presented what he said were Saudi internal intelligence documents which appeared to show the initiative to bring back dissidents as well as the specific one involving Khashoggi. He also showed testimony from those involved in what he described as the 15-man team's cover-up, and the initial results of an internal probe. He did not provide proof to substantiate the findings of the investigation and the other evidence.

This narrative is the latest Saudi account that has changed multiple times. The authorities initially dismissed reports that Khashoggi had gone missing inside the consulate as false and said he had left the building soon after entering. When the media reported a few days later that he had been killed there, they called the accusations "baseless."

Asked by Reuters why the government's version of Khashoggi's death kept changing, the official said the government initial account was based on "false information reported internally at the time."

"Once it became clear these initial mission reports were false, it launched an internal investigation and refrained from further public comment," the official said, adding that the investigation is continuing.

Turkish sources say the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi's murder inside the consulate but have not released it.

Riyadh dispatched a high-level delegation to Istanbul on Tuesday and ordered an internal investigation but U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he is not satisfied with Saudi Arabia’s handling of Khashoggi's death and said questions remain unanswered. Germany and France on Saturday called Saudi Arabia’s explanation of how Khashoggi died incomplete.

According to the latest version of the death, the government wanted to convince Khashoggi, who moved to Washington a year ago fearing reprisals for his views, to return to the kingdom as part of a campaign to prevent Saudi dissidents from being recruited by the country's enemies, the official said.

To that end, the official said, the deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency, Ahmed al-Asiri, put together a 15-member team from the intelligence and security forces to go to Istanbul, meet Khashoggi at the consulate and try to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.

“There is a standing order to negotiate the return of dissidents peacefully; which gives them the authority to act without going back to the leadership" the official said.

"Asiri is the one who formed the team and asked for an employee who worked with (Saud) al-Qahtani and who knew Jamal from the time they both worked at the embassy in London,” he said.

The official said Qahtani had signed off on one of his employees conducting the negotiations.

   

CHOKEHOLD

According to the plan, the team could hold Khashoggi in a safe house outside Istanbul for "a period of time" but then release him if he ultimately refused to return to Saudi Arabia, the official said.

Things went wrong from the start as the team overstepped their orders and quickly employed violence, the official said.

Khashoggi was ushered into the consul general's office where an operative named Maher Mutreb spoke to him about returning to Saudi Arabia, according to the government's account.

Khashoggi refused and told Mutreb that someone was waiting outside for him and would contact the Turkish authorities if he did not reappear within an hour, the official said.

Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has told Reuters he had handed her his two mobile phones and left instructions that she should wait for him and call an aide to Turkey's president if he did not reappear.

Back inside the consul's office, according to the official's account, Khashoggi told Mutreb he was violating diplomatic norms and said, "What are you going to do with me? Do you intend to kidnap me?"

Mutreb replied, "Yes, we will drug you and kidnap you," in what the official said was an attempt at intimidation that violated the mission's objective.

When Khashoggi raised his voice, the team panicked. They moved to restrain him, placing him in a chokehold and covering his mouth, according to the government's account.

"They tried to prevent him from shouting but he died," the official said. “The intention was not to kill him."

Asked if the team had smothered Khashoggi, the official said: "If you put someone of Jamal’s age in this position, he would probably die."

   

MISSING BODY

To cover up their misdeed, the team rolled up Khashoggi's body in a rug, took it out in a consular vehicle and handed it over to a "local cooperator" for disposal, the official said. Forensic expert Salah Tubaigy tried to remove any trace of the incident, the official said.

Turkish officials have told Reuters that Khashoggi's killers may have dumped his remains in Belgrad Forest adjacent to Istanbul, and at a rural location near the city of Yalova, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Istanbul.

Turkish investigators are likely to find out what happened to the body "before long," a senior official said.

The Saudi official said the local cooperator is an Istanbul resident but would not reveal his nationality. The official said investigators were trying to determine where the body ended up.

Meanwhile, operative Mustafa Madani donned Khashoggi's clothes, eyeglasses and Apple watch and left through the back door of the consulate in an attempt to make it look like Khashoggi had walked out of the building. Madani went to the Sultanahmet district where he disposed of the belongings.

The official said the team then wrote a false report for superiors saying they had allowed Khashoggi to leave once he warned that Turkish authorities could get involved and that they had promptly left the country before they could be discovered.

Skeptics have asked why so many people, including military officers and a forensics expert specializing in autopsies, were part of the operation if the objective was to convince Khashoggi to return home of his own volition.

The disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi insider turned critic, has snowballed into a massive crisis for the kingdom, forcing the 82-year-old monarch, King Salman, to personally get involved. It has threatened the kingdom’s business relationships, with several senior executives and government officials shunning an investor conference in Riyadh scheduled for next week and some U.S. lawmakers putting pressure on Trump to impose sanctions and stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The official said all 15 team members had been detained and placed under investigation, along with three other local suspects.

(Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Bill Trott)

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