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Saudi Arabia Says Journalist Khashoggi Died After Fight in Consulate

By VOA News October 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia says preliminary results from its investigation into the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows he died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after a fight with people he met there, state media reported.

A statement from the Saudi public prosecutor said 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested so far in connection with Khashoggi's death and said Royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri have been fired from their positions.

He said the investigation into Khashoggi's death still under way.

Khashoggi was last seen Oct. 2 after he entered the consulate to retrieve paperwork for his upcoming wedding. Turkey has said it believes Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering the consulate, but Saudi Arabia has denied the allegations.

Earlier Friday, Turkish police said they were questioning employees of the Saudi consulate in their ongoing investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance. Police also were conducting searches for the missing journalist in Belgrad Forest, near Istanbul, and in the city of Yalova, about 90 kilometers south of the city, Turkish officials said.

More than a dozen Turkish employees of the Saudi consulate were interviewed, including the consul general's driver, technicians, accountants and telephone operators, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Khashoggi's disappearance during an interview Friday with VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren.

President Donald Trump has warned there will be "very severe" consequences if Saudi Arabia is behind the disappearance of the journalist, but Pompeo said, "I'm not going to get into what those responses might be. We'll certainly consider a wide range of potential responses, but I think the important thing to do is that the facts come out."

Pompeo, who traveled to Riyadh earlier this week to speak to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told VOA, "I made very clear to them that the United States takes this matter very seriously. That we don't approve of extrajudicial killings. That we don't approve of that kind of activity. That it's not something consistent with American values, and that it is their responsibility, as this incident happened in the consulate.

"It's their responsibility to get to the bottom of this, to put the facts out clearly, accurately, completely, transparently, in a way that the whole world can see," Pompeo said. "And once we've identified the fact set, then they have the responsibility and the first instance to hold accountable those inside the country that may have been involved in any wrongdoing."

Turkish authorities also denied Friday they have shared with U.S. officials an audio recording of the torture and killing of Khashoggi.

Media reports said Pompeo heard the recording earlier in the week when he visited Turkey. But Pompeo, traveling in Mexico, told reporters, "I've seen no tape ... I've heard no tape. I've seen no transcript."

According to Anadolu, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "It is out of the question for us to share this or that information with any country."

Asked by reporters Thursday whether Khashoggi was dead, Trump responded it "certainly looks" like he is and that is "very sad."

Upon his return from speaking with Saudi and Turkish leaders, Pompeo briefed Trump at the White House earlier Thursday, asking him to give Saudi Arabia a few more days to complete its investigation of the disappearance of the writer.

Pompeo said there are "a lot of stories out there about what has happened" to Khashoggi, but he declined to speculate on the outcome of investigations in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The top U.S. diplomat said he believes "a complete picture will emerge" from the probes.

Pro-government Turkish media have published investigators' claims that Saudi agents linked to the crown prince cut off Khashoggi's fingers, decapitated him and then dismembered his body shortly after he arrived at the consulate to pick up documents for his wedding to Turkish national Hatice Cengiz. She waited in vain outside the consulate for Khashoggi's return.

The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah identified Saudi security official Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb as the leader of what it said was a 15-member "assassination team" that flew into Istanbul to carry out the execution of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States while writing columns for The Washington Post that criticized the crown prince and the Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen.

The Turkish newspaper said Mutreb, who has been photographed near the crown prince on his foreign travels this year, was spotted on surveillance tapes entering the consulate more than three hours before Khashoggi arrived, then later the same day outside the consul's residence and then again in the evening at the airport as he left Turkey.

Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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