ISTANBUL — More than a month after their father’s death, the sons of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi have made a plaintive appeal for the return of his body, saying he should be buried in the Saudi city where he was born in a cemetery alongside his relatives.

“We just need to make sure that he rests in peace,” Salah Khashoggi, 35, told CNN in an interview Sunday alongside his brother, Abdullah Khashoggi, 33, in their first comments to the news media since their father was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.  

Jamal Khashoggi’s body has not been found. And even as the sons requested the speedy retrieval of his remains, new details from Turkey’s investigation into the case that were released Monday made that likelihood seem remote. A Turkish official said investigators believe Saudi Arabia sent a two-person “cleanup” team to Turkey nine days after Khashoggi’s death to remove any evidence of his killing from the consulate as well as the nearby residence of the Saudi consul general.

The newly formed campaign Justice for Jamal hosts a memorial service in Washington, D.C. for the journalist killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Reuters)

The regional rivalry between Turkey and Saudi Arabia has captured the spotlight in the weeks since the killing of Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to prod Saudi leaders to acknowledge what he says is their role in the death. The Saudi government refused to comment for weeks but, in the face of international outrage, finally conceded that Khashoggi was killed in their consulate, even as they blamed it on rogue Saudi agents.  

Lost in the din have been the voices of Khashoggi’s children, grieving and forced to pick through a confusion of graphic news reports as they piece together details of their father’s death. Khashoggi’s daughters did not appear in the CNN interview.  

“Everybody’s telling a different story. I’m trying to simplify it as much as possible. He died,” Abdullah Khashoggi said. “It’s not a normal situation and not a normal death.”  

“I really hope that whatever happened wasn’t painful for him, or it was quick,” he added.

Salah Khashoggi, who lives in Saudi Arabia, became the public face of the family’s sorrow when a photograph of him, stone-faced, meeting Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shared on social media and interpreted as evidence of the family’s rage at the royal family.

But in fact, Salah Khashoggi said, the king had assured him that “everybody involved will be brought to justice” for the killing.

“I have faith in that. This will happen,” he said. 

Erdogan has said that Jamal Khashoggi’s killing by Saudi agents was premeditated and that the order came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, although he has not specified who he thinks was responsible. Erdogan also has demanded that the Saudi government reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body.

Turkey has said that a hit squad sent from Saudi Arabia strangled Khashoggi shortly after he entered the consulate to seek a document he needed for his planned marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish authorities said the team dismembered Khashoggi’s body and disposed of it.

Turkey has repeatedly accused Saudi authorities of trying to obstruct its investigation. On Monday, a Turkish official said that at least two members of a team that Saudi Arabia sent to investigate Khashoggi’s killing were actually there to cover it up. 

The official, who was not authorized to comment on the record and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the dispatch of the two men to Turkey “suggests that Khashoggi’s slaying was within the knowledge of top Saudi officials.” 

The official confirmed details in a report published Monday in Turkey’s pro-government Sabah newspaper that said the two men — a chemist and a toxicologist — were part of a delegation of Saudi investigators sent to Turkey nine days after Khashoggi was killed.    

Beginning Oct. 12, the two men visited the consulate regularly for a week, the paper reported. 

“We believe that the two individuals came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence,” the official said. 

Zeynep Karatas contributed to this report.