Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, denied in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives nearly a year ago but said he ultimately bears “full responsibility” for what happened because he is the country’s leader.
Speaking to the US network CBS on its 60 Minutes programme, MBS said: “Absolutely not,” when asked if he ordered the killing.
But he said he took full responsibility, “since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.
“This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future,” MBS said of the killing, which he called “heinous”.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year, where he was collecting documentation before his wedding. His body was dismembered and removed from the building, according to reports, and his remains have not been found.
MBS’s comments echo those made in a trailer to a PBS documentary due to air this week in which he said: “I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch”.
Speaking last week after the release of the trailer, Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz described the prince’s comments as a “pure political manoeuvre”.
“By saying that everything happened under his watch, he’s sending the world a message that he’s more influential than the king of Saudi Arabia, and is the real head of the country,” Cengiz said.