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Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi killed inside consulate, detains 18

He went to the consulate on October 2 for paperwork needed for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Riyadh/Ankara, Oct 20 : After over two weeks of shifting stories, Saudi Arabia has acknowledged that missing journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi died during a fistfight inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul and that 18 men had been arrested in the case.

Following this admission, Turkey on Saturday vowed to reveal all details in the case. “Turkey will never allow a cover-up… We are carrying out our own independent investigation. We will reveal our own conclusion,” a ruling party spokesperson said.

Turkish investigators previously said that Khashoggi had been deliberately killed inside the consulate and his body was later dismembered.

After 18 days in which it insisted it had no involvement in the journalist’s disappearance, Riyadh on Friday night said that an initial investigation by the government’s general prosecutor found that the Saudi journalist had been in discussions with people inside the consulate when a quarrel broke out and escalated to a fatal fistfight.

Those responsible then tried to cover it up, a Saudi statement said. Khashoggi was a permanent resident of the US in self-imposed exile and was a fierce critic of Riyadh’s human rights violations and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies.

He went to the consulate on October 2 for paperwork needed for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

An announcement carried on Saudi state TV was the first official confirmation of Khashoggi’s death in Turkey, and the first acknowledgment by Saudi Arabia of its role in it.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place in this case and affirms the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the attention of the public and to hold accountable all those involved,” it said.

The Saudi government said it fired five top officials and arrested 18 other Saudis as a result of the initial investigation. Those fired included the Crown Prince’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.

The Saudis set up a commission, led by the Crown Prince, that will restructure the Saudi general intelligence directorate and will have one month to release a report, state TV said.

The commission will consist of national security officials, the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry.

The Saudi statement came as the kingdom faced unprecedented political and economic pressure to explain what happened to Khashoggi.

It was unclear whether the Saudi explanation, in contrast with details provided by Turkish investigators, will be enough to satisfy foreign leaders, global business executives and US lawmakers pressing for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Turkish investigators had concluded days ago that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul. US officials have said that Turkey has audio and video recordings providing evidence that the journalist was interrogated and killed inside the consulate and his body cut into several pieces.

According to the Washington Post, CIA officials had listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say proved the journalist was killed and dismembered by the Saudi team, according to people familiar with the matter.

If verified, the recording would make it difficult for the White House to accept the Saudi version that Khashoggi’s death was effectively an accident. Nor has Khashoggi’s body been recovered, and the Saudi statement did not address what happened to it.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said that he found the Saudi claim credible, CNN said. He called the official statement from Riyadh a “good first step” and said talks with Saudi officials would continue.

He added that Saudi Arabia was a “great ally in the Middle East”, but “what happened is unacceptable”.

Trump said he would work with Congress to develop a response to Khashoggi’s death, but said that he didn’t want sanctions to affect US arms sales to the Kingdom.

Middle East

US sanctions 17 Saudi officials over killing of Khashoggi

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The United States’ government on Thursday sanctioned 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul early last month.

Among those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department is Saud al-Qahtani, one of the chief advisers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Efe reported.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi (on October 2). These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” he added.

The US Treasury Department accused al-Qahtani of helping to plan and execute the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi.

The other people hit with sanctions are Saudi Arabia’s consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi; al-Qahtani’s subordinate, Maher Mutreb, who allegedly coordinated and executed the operation; and 14 others who purportedly participated in the crime.

“As a result of these designations, any property or interests in property of the individuals designated today within or transiting US jurisdiction is blocked,” Thursday’s press release said.

“Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.”

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

In a press conference in Riyadh, the top prosecutor said the crown prince had not had any prior knowledge of the operation.

Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi, a government critic and Washington Post columnist, died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.

His body was then dismembered and handed over to a Turkish collaborator, the attorney general said.

Al-Mojeb said the then-deputy head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, had masterminded the operation that was intended to get Khashoggi back to the kingdom.

He added that the order for the killing was given by the head of the delegation of agents that had traveled to Turkey, although he did not name that individual.

Khashoggi, long a part of the Saudi establishment, became estranged from Riyadh as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.

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Middle East

Israel, Hamas trade heavy fire after deadly incursion

The fighting, which cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions, was triggered by a botched undercover Israeli military raid in Gaza the day before.

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Israel Hamas
Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of two of the seven Hamas militants who were killed in an Israeli raid late Sunday, during their funerals in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. ADEL HANA/AP

Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells Monday while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in what appeared to be the most intense exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

Palestinian officials said at least three people, including two militants, were killed by Israeli fire and nine were wounded. In Israel, the national rescue service said at least seven people were wounded, including a 19-year-old man who was in critical condition.

The fighting, which cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions, was triggered by a botched undercover Israeli military raid in Gaza the day before.

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Middle East

Saudis close to Crown Prince discussed killing enemies: NYT

Saudi officials have portrayed Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired.

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Mohammed bin Salman

New York, Nov 12 : Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate enemies of the Kingdom, The New York Times reported.

The Saudis inquired at a time when Prince Mohammed, then the deputy crown prince and defence minister, was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the Kingdom, informed sources told The Times on Sunday.

Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent.

Saudi officials have portrayed Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired.

But that official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, was present for a meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy, the sources said.

During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia.

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, arranged the meeting.

He had met previously with Prince Mohammed, and had pitched the Iran plan to Trump White House officials.

Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies.

Both Nader and Zamel are witnesses in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors have asked them about their discussions with American and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal, The New York Times reported.

General Assiri was dismissed last month when the Saudi government acknowledged Khashoggi’s killing and said he had organised the operation.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government had handed over a recording of Khashoggi’s killing to the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France, pressuring President Donald Trump to more harshly punish the Saudis over the murder.

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