Journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a “fight” with individuals inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, Saudi authorities said after nearly two weeks of speculation. A senior Saudi intelligence official was fired over the incident.
Khashoggi lived in Turkey and was last seen entering the consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. The Turkish government almost immediately accused the Saudi authorities of killing the journalist, which Riyadh denied.
On Saturday, however, a Saudi prosecutor announced on state television that an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance confirmed he was dead. An argument between Khashoggi and men who met him inside the consulate on October 2 escalated into “a fistfight that led to his death,” the prosecutor said, adding that the men then tried to cover it up.
“The Kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place,” the prosecutor’s statement adds.
The investigation is still underway and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested so far, the authorities said. Saudi TV also confirmed that General Ahmad al-Asiri, deputy director of General Intelligence Directorate, was fired over the incident.
Al-Asiri was a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as was another official fired over the incident, Saud al-Qahtani, who was in charge of Saudi propaganda overseas.
The Saudi admission seems to confirm at least some of the accusations made by anonymous Turkish officials over the past two weeks, though some of the more lurid claims – that it was a hit ordered by bin Salman personally, or that the assassins cut Khashoggi’s body into pieces with a bone saw – remain in the realm of rumors.
International outrage, fueled by media reports of Turkish claims, has already resulted in many countries and companies dropping out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia, and the US Senate calling for Magnitsky Act sanctions against Riyadh.
Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.