CNN obtained surveillance footage from Turkish officials that shows a Saudi operative walking around Istanbul wearing slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and a fake beard, the news outlet reported on Monday.
According to the Turks, the impostor was Mustafa al-Madani, a member of the team allegedly sent from Saudi Arabia to kill Khashoggi when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish officials who spoke to CNN charged that the Saudis brought Madani, who is about ten years older than the rest of the Saudi team and has a build similar to Khashoggi, to Istanbul specifically to serve as a body double after seizing the target. They said he left the consulate through its back door and made a point of walking to various places in Istanbul where he was certain to be caught on surveillance cameras, such as the famed Blue Mosque.
Madani was also caught on surveillance video entering the consulate four hours earlier, wearing different clothes and without a beard. The only items of his apparel that remained consistent after he departed the building were his shoes, a pair of dark-colored sneakers with white soles.
“Khashoggi’s clothes were probably still warm when Madani put them on,” a senior Turkish official told CNN.
“You don’t need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation. Our assessment has not changed since October 6. This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate,” the official said.
Although unsubstantiated leaks from anonymous Turkish officials have fueled a great deal of the reporting on Khashoggi’s disappearance, in this case, CNN said its reporters were able to see surveillance footage Turkish law enforcement provided and it published a few still photos of Madani walking around Istanbul in Khashoggi’s clothes.
The body double discovery inflicts considerable damage on the already shaky story of Khashoggi’s death provided by the Saudis, who ended two weeks of denying all knowledge of his fate and claiming he left the Istanbul consulate safely by admitting on Friday that he died in the building, but insisting he died in a “fistfight” gone wrong. A Saudi source “close to the royal palace” elaborated to CNN that Khashoggi supposedly died in a “chokehold” while security forces struggled to subdue the rambunctious unarmed 59-year-old.
Turkish media published a claim Sunday, citing an alleged senior Saudi official, that the Saudis rolled Khashoggi’s body up in a rug and gave it to a “local cooperator” for disposal. This account would be consistent with reports of Turkish police searching a forest near Istanbul and a farm 60 miles away for his remains.
Turkish investigators on Monday inspected an underground parking lot in Istanbul where they discovered a seemingly abandoned vehicle from the Saudi consulate. The police have inspected a number of consular vehicles looking for evidence they were used to transport Khashoggi’s body.
A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on Monday the killing of Khashoggi was a “complicated” assassination that was “monstrously planned.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the investigation will continue until the details are revealed in all their “naked truth.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday told Bret Baier of Fox News the killing was a “rogue operation” where “individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.”
“They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it,” Jubeir said, implying that misinformation pouring from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was intended to deceive Riyadh as much as the rest of the world. He insisted the killers have no connection to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Jubeir offered condolences to Khashoggi’s family during his Fox News interview, as did the crown prince and King Salman bin Abdulaziz in a phone call to Khashoggi’s son Salah on Sunday.