Riyadh/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has broken his silence in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, saying he bears responsibility “because it happened under my watch.”
The CIA has concluded that the kingdom’s de facto ruler ordered his operatives to kill the 59-year-old Washington Post columnist in October 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was strangled and mutilated.
Saudi Arabia has insisted that bin Salman had no role in the slaughter of the royal insider-turned-outspoken critic, who went to the consulate to pick up papers ahead of his wedding. His remains have not been found.
“It happened under my watch,” the prince said in a PBS “Frontline” documentary — “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” — set to premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday. “I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch.”
The death sparked a global outcry, tarnishing the crown prince’s image and endangering ambitious plans to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter and open up the kingdom’s cloistered society.
Since the killing, bin Salman has not set foot in the United States or Europe.
After initial denials, Riyadh blamed the murder on rogue operatives. The public prosecutor said the then-deputy intelligence chief ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, but the lead negotiator ordered him killed after discussions for his return collapsed.
Saud al-Qahtani — a former top royal adviser who Reuters reported gave orders over Skype to the assassins — briefed the hit team on the journalist’s activities before the operation, the prosecutor said.
Asked by “Frontline” correspondent Martin Smith how the killing could happen without his knowledge, bin Salman said: “We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees.”
Smith asked during his December interview whether the killers could have taken private government jets.
“I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible. They have the authority to do that,” bin Salman responded.