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Saudi's Khashoggi death investigation leaves questions

The answers remain central to the probe's credibility.
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As the Saudi government rolled out its version of events in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi through a flood of statements Friday, glaring questions remain unanswered and are central to whether the investigation's results can be deemed credible:

What did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman know and when did he know it?

There is no indication in any Saudi statement that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is considered responsible. The fact that King Salman has named him to lead the committee that will overhaul the intelligence service makes clear that he’s not being blamed. How is it possible that several of his top aides and intelligence officials, as acknowledged by the Saudis, planned an operation, but without his knowledge or approval?

Image: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on October 24, 2017.Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images file

Where is the body?

The Turkish authorities have alleged Khashoggi was dismembered, and other regional diplomats have told NBC News they believe he was removed from the consulate in boxes. Was his body taken out of the country on the two flights — one to Dubai, one to Cairo? Dumped at sea? Buried at either of the sites near Istanbul where Turkish police have been searching? Will the Saudis facilitate the transfer of his remains to his family or allow an independent autopsy?

When did the Saudi government in Riyadh learn he was dead?

Four days after he entered the consulate and was killed, the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and Embassy in Washington were still publicly insisting he left the consulate. Ambassador to the United States and brother of the crown prince, Khalid bin Salman, told U.S. lawmakers Khashoggi left the consulate and there was no surveillance footage because the cameras weren’t recording. Do the Saudis acknowledge that they lied to the Trump administration, Congress and the public? Once they learned he’d been killed, why did they continue to conceal that fact, and for how long?

What exactly transpired after Khashoggi entered the consulate?

The Saudis are claiming the team sent to Istanbul intended to have “discussions” with Khashoggi about him returning to Saudi Arabia, but the discussions didn’t go the way they needed and a fight ensued. Turkish authorities have told both international and Turkish media that they have a recording proving he was killed within minutes of entering the consulate and then dismembered. Both can’t be true. Which is it?

Turkish police officers prepare to enter the residence of the Saudi consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi to conduct a search after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, on Oct. 17, 2018.Emrah Gurel / AP

Who are the 18 Saudis who have been detained?

Do they include the 15 Saudis who the Turks say were on the hit team sent to Istanbul? If so, who are the other three? And what exactly is the allegation against them — that they participated in an unsanctioned operation that they should never have taken part of in the first place? Or was the operation itself sanctioned, but they went beyond their orders, killing him and then covering it up?