OCTOBER 20, 2018
In this image made from a March 2018 video provided by Metafora Production, Jamal Khashoggi speaks during an interview at an undisclosed location. | Photo Credit: AP
The admission after weeks of vehement denials by the Gulf kingdom comes after Donald Trump said sanctions could be imposed if it was proved the journalist was killed.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday admitted that critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in Istanbul.
The Gulf kingdom had been facing one of its worst international crises since his disappearance for many days now.
The Kingdom sacked Deputy Intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Royal Court Media Advisor Saud al-Qahtani, both top aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has faced mounting pressure on the Khashoggi affair.
The admission that Khashoggi died at the hands of Saudi officials after weeks of vehement denials by the Gulf kingdom comes after U.S. President Donald Trump said that the United States, which is Saudi Arabia’s biggest backer, could impose sanctions if it was proved the journalist was killed.
Saudi Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said Khashoggi died after “discussions” at the consulate devolved into an altercation, without disclosing any details on the whereabouts of his body.
“Preliminary investigations… revealed that the discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him… at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fist fight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death, may his soul rest in peace,” the Attorney General said in a statement.
White House ‘saddened’; U.N. chief says he is ‘deeply troubled’
Reacting to Khashoggi’s confirmed death, the White House said it was “saddened” but made no mention of any possible action against its major ally.
“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent and in accordance with all due process,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
United Nations chief Antonio Gutterres said he was “deeply troubled” adding there needed to be “full accountability for those responsible.”
Disappearance shrouded in mystery
Saudi journalist Khashoggi, a critic of the Islamic petro-state’s powerful Crown Prince and a Washington Post contributor, was last seen on October 2 entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
His disappearance had been shrouded in mystery and triggered an international crisis, with Turkish officials accusing Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing and dismembering his body.
The public prosecutor said 18 people, all Saudi nationals, have been detained in connection with the probe.
The Saudi king also ordered the setting up of ministerial committee under the chairmanship of the Crown Prince, widely known as MBS, to restructure the kingdom’s intelligence agency and “define its powers accurately”, state media said.
The controversy has put the kingdom — for decades a key Western ally and bulwark against Iran in the Middle East — under unprecedented pressure to offer an explanation to take the heat off its rulers.
It evolved into a major crisis for Prince Mohammed, a Trump administration favourite who has portrayed himself as a modernizing Arab reformer, but whose image and even position at home could now be gravely undermined.
“Dismissing Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmad al-Assiri is as close to MBS as it is possible to go,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the United States.
“Interesting to see if these moves prove sufficient. If the drip-drip of additional details continue, there’s no buffer to shield MBS any longer.”
Threat of sanctions
Shortly before Riyadh confirmed that Khashoggi had been killed, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman agreed in telephone talks to continue cooperation in the investigation into the Khashoggi affair.
Mr. Erdogan and King Salman “emphasised the importance of continuing to work together with complete cooperation”, said a Turkish presidential source, who asked not to be named.
The United States warned Friday of a “wide range” of responses should it determine that Saudi Arabia is behind the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as Turkey widened its investigation into the scandal.