The kingdom finally acknowledged three weeks ago that evidence provided by Turkey had indicated a planned assassination, and the Trump administration welcomed the admission as a sign of progress toward accountability. “The Saudis have acknowledged that this was a premeditated attack,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Nov. 4.
Now, the kingdom is hedging on that acknowledgment of premeditation, with the prosecutor indicating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was planned, at most, within a few hours before it took place.
Turkey has applied pressure on the kingdom to reveal who ordered the killing and has implied the plan must have been approved by Prince Mohammed. This week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey expressed frustration that the prince was failing to follow through on his promise to expose the truth about the disappearance and death of Mr. Khashoggi.
On Thursday, Turkey quickly dismissed the Saudis’ new explanation, with the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, declaring it “unsatisfying.”
“The dismembering of the body is not an instant decision,” Mr. Cavusoglu said, according to news reports. “They brought the necessary people and tools to kill him and dismember the body in advance.”
The American sanctions targeted 17 people for their connections to the killing, including Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince; Mr. Mutreb, the intelligence agent who has often traveled abroad as part of the crown prince’s security detail; and Salah Tubaigy, the autopsy specialist who Turkish officials say dismembered Mr. Khashoggi after he was killed.
The public prosecutor said that Mr. Qahtani, a powerful aide to Prince Mohammed who has directed vast social media campaigns against the kingdom’s enemies, met with some of the agents before they flew to Turkey. The purpose, the prosecutor added, was to give them “some useful information” related to “his belief that the victim had been co-opted by organizations and countries hostile to the kingdom and that his presence abroad constituted a danger to the security of the homeland.”