Saudi Arabia says Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has died, adding that it has fired two senior officials over the incident that has provoked an international outcry and strained relations between Riyadh and the West.
A statement from the Saudi public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate and led to his death.
“The investigations are still underway and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested,” the statement on state media said, adding that royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri have been fired from their positions.
Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, went missing after entering the consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
Saturday’s comments marked the first time since Khashoggi went missing that the Saudis admitted to his death.
Turkish officials had said they believed he was killed in the building. Saudi Arabia had previously denied the allegations and said Khashoggi had left the building shortly after.
King Salman also ordered the formation of a ministerial committee headed by the crown prince to restructure the general intelligence agency, state media said.
The disappearance of Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Western allies. Arab allies have rallied to Riyadh’s support, but Western pressure has intensified on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.
Before the Saudi announcements, US President Donald Trump said he might consider sanctions against Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while emphasising the importance of the US-Saudi relationship.
In Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance questioned Turkish employees of the Saudi consulate on Friday, widening the hunt for clues in a case straining Riyadh’s alliance with Western powers.
Turkish police searched a forest on Istanbul’s outskirts and a city near the Sea of Marmara for Khashoggi’s remains, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters, after tracking the routes of cars that left the consulate and the consul’s residence on the day he vanished.
Investigators have recovered samples from searches of both buildings to analyse for traces of Khashoggi’s DNA.
Speaking to reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona, Trump said it was too early to say what the consequences for the incident might be, but that the US Congress would be involved in determining the American response.
Asked whether Saudi sanctions were one of the measures he was considering, Trump said, “Could be, could be,” though he provided no details.
“We’re going to find out who knew what when and where. And we’ll figure it out,” Trump added.
Khashoggi’s disappearance has tarnished the crown prince’s reputation and deepened questions about his leadership, prompting Saudi King Salman to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family told Reuters.