Saudi Arabia has confirmed that missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. The government believes Khashoggi died after getting in a fight with individuals he met in the Turkish consulate, according to the BBC. This explanation is counter to the Saudi government’s previous comments on the matter and reports from statements about the journalist’s death.
“The discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul… devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death,” said the Saudi Press Agency.
This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has admitted that Khashoggi is dead. Via its state press, the kingdom announced that it believes the missing journalist died in a clash at the consulate in Istanbul on October 2, where he had gone to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage to fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
According to a state TV report, two members of government staff have been dismissed over the affair. Saudi deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and the senior aide to Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, were both removed as part of the country’s probe into the matter.
“Ahmad al-Assiri, vice president of general intelligence has been sacked from his position,” the state report said.
The report also announced that 18 individuals linked to the case have been detained as part of the investigation. Saudi King Salman has reportedly also ordered a committee be formed, headed by his son Prince Mohammed, to restructure the country’s intelligence services.
النائب العام : التحقيقات الأولية في موضوع المواطن جمال خاشقجي أظهرت وفاته - رحمه الله - والتحقيقات مستمرة مع الموقوفين على ذمة القضية والبالغ عددهم حتى الأن ( 18 ) شخصاً جميعهم من الجنسية السعودية.https://t.co/mAIGgTPuTA#عاجل_واس pic.twitter.com/LpBy4NSqeR— واس (@spagov) October 19, 2018
The announcement comes after two weeks of intense pressure on the country to respond to reports that Khashoggi was killed by Saudis after entering the Turkish consulate.
Khashoggi, who was a journalist for the Washington Post, vanished two weeks ago after entering the consulate and not coming back out. The Turkish government has alleged that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by Saudi men inside the consulate. Officials told the New York Times that the Turkish government is in possession of audio that proves that the journalist was tortured and dismembered.
The Saudi government has previously said that it believes Khashoggi left the consulate out of the rear entrance shortly after arriving, though no video footage exists to support the assertion.
The state announcement comes shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman spoke over the phone about the matter. The two agreed that their countries would cooperate to investigate the matter.
Saudi Arabia’s announcement suggests the country is hoping to limit the amount of diplomatic fall-out from Khashoggi’s disappearance.