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Saudi Arabia says missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead

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Saudi Arabia announced the death of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying a preliminary investigation indicated he lost his life after a fight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul... devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death,” the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the public prosecutor, reported Arab News (Saudi Arabia).

Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection with the incident and the investigation is ongoing, the public prosecutor said.

“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,” a statement on the SPA said.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in the US, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate to complete paperwork related to his divorce.

Deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Al-Asiri was removed from his position and Saud Al-Qahtani from his advisory role at the Royal Court, through royal decrees.

Three other intelligence officials who were also sacked have been named as Mohammad bin Saleh Al-Rumaih, Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Shaya and Rashad bin Hamed Al-Muhamadi.

King Salman also ordered the creation of a ministerial committee, headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to restructure the country’s General Intelligence agency and issue the results of its work within a month.

Members of the committee include the interior and foreign ministers as well as the heads of the General Intelligence and State Security.

A team of Saudi investigators were sent to Istanbul and have been working on the case with Turkish detectives, who entered the consulate.

Earlier in the week, Saudi Arabia promised a thorough and transparent investigation into what happened to the journalist in Turkey.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed within 15 minutes and his dismembered body parts were packaged, Al Jazeera claimed, reported Yeni Safak (Turkey).

"Turkish investigators were able to locate the exact place within the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi was allegedly killed during their search of the building earlier this week," Turkish sources told Al Jazeera.

Recordings confirm that Khashoggi was attacked by several people after entering the consulate in Istanbul.

"The investigators, who used audio recordings of Khashoggi’s alleged murder to guide their search, also confirmed that Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, an autopsy expert, began cutting up the 60-year-old's body immediately after he was killed."

A prominent Saudi journalist and intellectual, Khashoggi has remained unaccounted for since Oct. 2, when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

On the same day of Khashoggi's disappearance, 15 other Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was still inside, according to Turkish police sources. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.

Ever since he went missing, speculation has mounted that he was killed by the Saudi authorities, who have yet to provide a convincing explanation for his disappearance.

Meanwhile, several countries -- including Turkey, the U.S. and the U.K. -- have continued to press Riyadh for clarification.

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President Trump called Saudi Arabia's explanation for the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi credible and said that the arrests of more than a dozen Saudi nationals were "a good first step." – reported The Hill (US).

"It's a big step. There's a lot of people involved," Trump said while speaking during a roundtable with top defense contractors in Arizona.

Trump added that "Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable."

When asked if he found the Saudi's explanation credible, Trump responded, "I do."

The president told gathered defense contractors that he does not want to cancel or suspend billions of dollars in Saudi arms purchases as a punishment on the country, but would instead prefer “some form of sanction.”

"I would prefer that we don't use as retribution cancelling $110 billion worth of work," he said.

Trump also claimed without offering evidence that those arms deals were critical to more than 1 million U.S. jobs.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), have said the Saudi government's explanation released Friday for the death of Khashoggi is not credible.

The Saudi government claimed in a statement that after he entered its consulate Khashoggi was involved in a physical altercation that led to his death.

"The claim that Khashoggi was killed while brawling with 15 men dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not at all credible. If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him, it was for his life," Schiff tweeted Friday.

Saudi Arabia's statement was the first time it had acknowledged that Khashoggi died after he entered its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate to obtain documents for his marriage.

Turkish authorities have claimed that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives in the consulate.

Earlier the Saudi kingdom denied any knowledge of the journalist's whereabouts.

Eighteen Saudi nationals have been arrested and are being questioned in connection with the case, the kingdom said Friday in its statement reported by state-controlled media outlets.

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