Saudis blame ‘fistfight’ for Jamal Khashoggi’s death

bdmetronews Desk ॥ Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a “fistfight” in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the kingdom claimed early Saturday, finally admitting that the writer had been slain at its diplomatic post. Authorities said 18 Saudi suspects were in custody and intelligence officials had been fired.

The overnight announcements in Saudi state media came more than two weeks after Khashoggi, 59, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancée, and never came out. They also contradicted assertions in Turkish media leaks that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate, claims the kingdom had rejected as “baseless.”

But growing international pressure and comments by U.S. officials up to President Donald Trump forced the kingdom to acknowledge Khashoggi’s death.

While it fired officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia stopped short of implicating the heir-apparent of the world’s largest oil exporter. King Salman, his father, appointed him to lead a committee that will restructure the kingdom’s intelligence services after Khashoggi’s slaying. No major decisions in Saudi Arabia are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family.

The kingdom also offered a far different version of events than those given by Turkish officials, who have said an “assassination squad” from the kingdom including an official from Prince Mohammed’s entourage and an “autopsy expert” flew in ahead of time and laid in wait for Khashoggi at the consulate. Beyond its statements attributed to anonymous officials, Saudi Arabia offered no evidence to support its claims.

Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and royal court insider for decades in Saudi Arabia, had written columns for The Washington Post critical of Prince Mohammed and the kingdom’s direction while living in self-imposed exile in the U.S.

“God have mercy on you my love Jamal, and may you rest in Paradise,” Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted following the Saudi announcements.

In a statement Friday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. will closely follow international investigations into Khashoggi’s death and will advocate for justice that is “timely, transparent and in accordance with all due process.”

Trump meanwhile called the Saudi announcement a “good first step,” but said what happened to Khashoggi was “unacceptable.”

The announcements came in a flurry of statements carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency early Saturday morning.

“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Public Prosecution showed that the suspects had traveled to Istanbul to meet with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi as there were indications of the possibility of his returning back to the country,” the statement read. “Discussions took place with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi during his presence in the consulate of the kingdom in Istanbul by the suspects (that) did not go as required and developed in a negative way, leading to a fistfight. . The brawl led to his death and their attempt to conceal and hide what happened.”

There’s been no indication Khashoggi had any immediate plans to return to the kingdom.

The Saudi statements did not identify the 18 Saudis being held by authorities and did not explain how so many people could have been involved in a fistfight. The statement also did not shed any light on what happened to Khashoggi’s body after his death.

“The kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place and stresses the commitment of the authorities in the kingdom to bring the facts to the public opinion, to hold all those involved accountable and bring them to justice,” the statement said.

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