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Saudis confirm death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia has confirmed the death of missing Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in an announcement on Saudi state TV.

The Saudis have set up a commission that will investigate Khashoggi’s death and will have one month to release a report, according to state TV. The commission will consist of national security officials, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry.

Discussions between Khashoggi and those who met him during arrival at the consulate in Istanbul led to an argument and physical altercation that led to his death, the state TV report said.

A total of 18 Saudi nationals have now been detained for investigation, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In the announcement on Saudi State TV, it said a royal order has been issued to release Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri from his duty as the deputy of the intelligence services.

Asiri was believed to be the chief architect of the war with Yemen. He was previously the Saudi-led coalition spokesman in the kingdom’s war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The two-star general’s position as spokesman made him a household name and he was soon part of the Crown Prince’s inner circle.

According to several sources, he chose the team involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In their announcement, the Saudis expressed deep regret over Khashoggi’s death and the “painful developments” in the case. They affirmed 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,” according to a CNN translation of the announcement.

This was the official translation of the full statement read on Saudi state television:

“The case of the disappearance of the citizen Jamal bin Ahmed Khashoggi drew the attention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the highest levels, and due to the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, the Kingdom took the necessary procedures to clarify the truth and began by dispatching a security team to Turkey on 6 October 2018 to investigate and cooperate with counterparts in Turkey.

That was followed by the formation of a joint security team between the Kingdom and the Republic of Turkey, with a permission given to the Turkish security authorities to enter the Consulate of the Kingdom in Istanbul and the residence of the Consul, for the Kingdom’s keenness to clarify all the facts, as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has issued an order to the Public Prosecutor of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, No. 5709 dated 3/2/1440 H to conduct investigations into the case.

The Public Prosecutor has already investigated a number of suspects on the basis of information provided by the Turkish authorities to the Joint Security Team to determine whether any of them had any information or relation to what has been happened related where the information that transferred to the security authorities indicated that the citizen Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate.

In implementation to the directives of the leadership of the need to clearly know the truth and declare it transparently whatever, the preliminary investigations conducted by the Public Prosecution showed that the suspect 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 results of the preliminary investigations also revealed that the discussions that took place with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi during his presence in the consulate of the Kingdom in Istanbul by the suspects did not go as required and developed in a negative way led to a fight and a quarrel between some of them and the citizen Jamal Khashoggi, yet the brawl aggravated to lead to his death and their attempt to conceal and cover what happened.

The source added that while the investigations are still ongoing into the case with the 18 Saudi detainees, 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 by referring them to the competent courts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Khashoggi disappeared October 2 after going to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

She raised the alarm to police just before 5 p.m. on October 2 — three and a half hours after the journalist entered the consulate. At that time she was still waiting outside.

Turkish officials now say they believe that 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s death. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.

By Sarah Sirgany and Clarissa Ward, CNN