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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

Netanyahu: Iran to face consequences for threatening Israel

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem, Jan 21 (IANS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday that Iran would face consequences for threatening Israel, hours after Israeli fighter jets struck targets in Syria’s capital Damascus.

“We are acting against Iran and the Syrian forces that abet the Iranian aggression. Whoever threatens to destroy us will bear the full responsibility,” Netanyahu said in a speech.

He said that the overnight assault targeted mainly Iranian sites in Syria, which was a response to a rocket fired by Iranians in Syria towards the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We will not ignore such acts of aggression as Iran attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier in the day, Damascus said that it intercepted multiple Israeli guided missiles targeting the country’s south. Some 11 pro-government fighters were killed, according to reports.

In a rare public acknowledgment, the Israeli military confirmed it carried out the attacks.

Israel says it is not part of the eight-year war in Syria but its military has carried out hundreds of air attacks over the past years against Iranian targets, which Israel accuses of attempting to entrench itself in Syria, in addition to Syrian Army positions.

It also bombed weapons convoyed to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia militia.

Israel has mostly kept silent on its actions against Iranian targets in Syria, fearing such comments might trigger an escalation. That policy started to change under Netanyahu, who confirmed earlier in January that the Air Force had struck Iranian sites in Syria hours after the attack.

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Disaster

Earthquake jolts Iran’s Gilangharb city

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Earthquake

Tehran, Jan 6 (IANS) At least 31 people were injured in a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that shook Gilangharb city in Kermanshah province in the west of Iran on Sunday, Iran Emergency Organization was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

Assessment teams of Iran’s Red Crescent Society have been dispatched to the site of earthquake to study the damage, Kourosh Mahmoudian, the governor of Gilangharb, told Tasnim.

Some residential buildings and cattle farms have been damaged and rockfall has blocked the roads in the area, Mahmoudian said, Xinhua reported.

The quake has also affected the quality of drinking water in Gilangharb, he said.

However, he assured the local people of the sufficient quality drinking water reserves.

According to Iran’s Seismological Center, the epicenter of earthquake was monitored at 34.16 degrees north latitude and 45.66 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 10 km.

At least 15 aftershocks, ranging from 3.0 to 4.8 magnitude, have shaken the region so far, according to the center.

The earthquake was also felt in neighboring Lorestan province as well as in Iraq.

In November 2017, 211 Iranians died in a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the Iranian-Iraqi border in Sar pol Zahab area.

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Middle East

CCTV Footage may show men carrying Khashoggi body parts in suitcases, bags

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Jamal Khashoggi

A Turkish TV station has broadcast CCTV footage showing men carrying Suitcases, bags it says contained Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body parts. The images shown on A-Haber television late feature three men carrying five suitcases and two large black bags into the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul.

A-Haber said the bags and suitcases were put into a minibus which travelled the short distance from the consulate to a garage at the residence. The men are then seen taking them inside.

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