Riyadh / Istanbul: President Donald Trump suggested Monday that "rogue killers" could be responsible for the disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who hasn't been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
Trump's comment came after a 20-minute phone call with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in which Trump said the king adamantly denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
Trump announced he'd dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the kingdom — and anywhere else necessary — to get to the bottom of the apparent demise of Khashoggi, a Saudi who had been living and working in the United States.
"The king firmly denied any knowledge of it," Trump told reporters as he left the White House. Trump said he didn't "want to get into (Salman's) mind," but told reporters: "it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We're going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial."
King Salman on Monday ordered an internal probe into the unexplained disappearance of Khashoggi as a joint Turkish-Saudi team searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was last seen on October 2.
“The King has ordered the Public Prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the info from the joint team in Istanbul,” a Saudi official, not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters.
Asked when the public prosecutor could make an announcement about the investigation, the official said: “He was instructed to work quickly.”
Saudi Arabia has said it would retaliate against any pressure or economic sanctions “with greater action”, and Arab allies rallied to support it.
Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal last week to form a joint working group to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance.
King Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday evening and stressed the importance of the two countries creating the joint group as part of the probe.
On Monday, investigators began conducting a joint inspection of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi went missing nearly two weeks ago.
A team arrived by unmarked police cars at the consulate and said nothing to journalists waiting outside as they entered the building.
The agreement for a search of the consulate came a day after King Salman called Turkish President Erdogan, thanking him for welcoming the kingdom’s proposal to set up a joint working group to probe the case.
The probe could hold people accountable if pevidence warrants it.
Trump said he was sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately to meet the monarch and travel to other places as needed.
Pompeo is expected to arrive in the kingdom on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has received full support from four other GCC member countries over the massive media onslaught and political pressure.
Also, Jordan and Egypt have come out strongly in support of the kingdom and have condemned threats to undermine the stature of Saudi Arabia.
The countries supporting Saudi Arabia have voiced their opposition to all accusations and unlawful campaigns targeting the kingdom.
They were joined by organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League, which stressed the importance of waiting for results of the joint investigation.