Istanbul, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a "fistfight" in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the kingdom claimed early Saturday, admitting that the writer had been slain at its diplomatic post for the first time. Authorities said 18 Saudi suspects were in custody for his slaying and intelligence officials had been fired.
The overnight announcements in Saudi state media came more than two weeks after Khashoggi, 59, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancée, and never came out. Since his disappearance, the kingdom had rejected Turkish fears he was killed and dismembered there as "baseless," but growing international pressure and comments by U.S. officials up to President Donald Trump appears to have forced the kingdom to acknowledge the slaying.
While it fired officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom stopped short of implicating the heir-apparent of the world's largest oil exporter. King Salman, his father, appointed him to lead a committee that will restructure the kingdom's intelligence services after Khashoggi's slaying. No major decisions in Saudi Arabia are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom's ruling Al Saud family.
It also offered a far different version of events than those given by Turkish officials, who have said an "assassination squad" from the kingdom including an official from Prince Mohammed's entourage and an "autopsy expert" flew in ahead of time and laid in wait for Khashoggi at the consulate. Beyond its statements attributed to anonymous officials, Saudi Arabia offered no evidence to support its claims.
In a statement Friday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. will closely follow international investigations into Khashoggi's death and will advocate for justice that is "timely, transparent and in accordance with all due process."
Trump meanwhile called the Saudi announcement a "good first step," but said what happened Khashoggi was "unacceptable."
The announcements came in a flurry of statements carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency early Saturday morning.
"Preliminary investigations conducted by the Public Prosecution showed that the suspects 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 statement read, though there's been no indication Khashoggi had immediate plans to return to the kingdom. "Discussions took place with the citizen Jamal Khashoggi during his presence in the consulate of the kingdom in Istanbul by the suspects (that) did not go as required and developed in a negative way, leading to a fistfight. . The brawl led to his death and their attempt to conceal and hide what happened."
The Saudi statements did not identify the 18 Saudis being held by authorities and gave no explanation how 18 people could be involved in one "fistfight." Nor did the statements explain what happened to Khashoggi's body after his death.
"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," the statement said.
The kingdom at the same time announced the firing of four top intelligence officials, including Maj. Gen. Ahmed bin Hassan Assiri, a one-time spokesman for the Saudi military's campaign in Yemen who later became a confidant of Prince Mohammed. Separately fired was Saud Qahtani, a powerful adviser to Prince Mohammed who led Saudi efforts to isolate Qatar amid a boycott of the country by the kingdom and three other Arab nations as part of a political dispute.
On Twitter, where Qahtani had launched vitriolic attacks against those he saw as the kingdom's enemies, he thanked the Saudi government for the "great opportunity they gave me to serve my country all those years"
"I will remain a loyal servant to my country for all times," he wrote.
Assiri had no immediate comment.
On Wednesday, the Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak, citing what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi's slaying, said the squad immediately accosted the journalist after he entered the consulate, cutting off his fingers and later decapitating him. On Thursday, a leaked surveillance photo put Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage on trips to the U.S., France and Spain this year, at the consulate just ahead of Khashoggi's arrival.
Turkish crime scene investigators this week searched the Saudi Consulate building in Istanbul and the nearby residence of the Saudi consul general, and came out carrying bags and boxes. On Friday, investigators questioned staff and explored whether his remains could have been dumped outside Istanbul after his suspected killing, Turkish media and a security official said.
Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and royal court insider for decades in Saudi Arabia, had written columns for The Washington Post critical of Prince Mohammed and the kingdom's direction while living in self-imposed exile in the U.S.
Trump has said that the consequences for the Saudis "will have to be very severe" if they are found to have killed him, but has insisted that more facts must be known before making any judgements. He had dispatched U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week to both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to speak to officials on the case.
The president has made close ties to the kingdom a priority since taking office. Trump made his first overseas trip as president to Saudi Arabia and has touted his arms sales to the kingdom. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, responsible for a coming peace proposal for Israel and the Palestinians, also has forged a close relationship with Prince Mohammed.
Trump's previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president wants King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran in November.
It's unclear whether the Saudi announcement will be enough to staunch the criticism the kingdom faces from lawmakers in the U.S., its most-crucial ally. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called the Saudi Arabia's claim that Khashoggi was "killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible."
He was "fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him," Schiff said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who earlier this week said in a televised interview that Prince Mohammed "has got to go," added: "To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement."
Human rights groups like Amnesty International separately have been calling for a United Nations investigation into Khashoggi's killing.
"All along we were concerned about a whitewash, or an investigation by the entity suspected of involvement itself," Amnesty's Rawya Rageh said Saturday. "The impartiality of a Saudi investigation would remain in question."
Ankara, Oct 19 (UNB) --Turkish media have named 15 Saudi nationals who Turkish officials suspect were involved in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist critical of the government who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in the city of Istanbul on 2 October.
Most of the men flew into Istanbul on two private jets hours before Mr Khashoggi arrived at the consulate to collect some routine paperwork, and flew back to Riyadh later in the day on the same jets, reports BBC.
Turkish officials believe the men are Saudi officials and intelligence officers, an allegation that appears to be supported by open source information that is freely available.
Saudi authorities deny any involvement in Mr Khashoggi's disappearance. They insist he left the consulate soon after getting the paperwork.
Dr Tubaigy is a forensic pathologist who completed a master's degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and in 2015 he spent three months at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Australia.
The doctor identifies himself on his Twitter account as a professor of forensic medicine and head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics. The account also links to the Saudi interior ministry.
In 2014 the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said Dr Tubaigy was a lieutenant colonel working for the forensic science department of the interior ministry's General Directorate of Public Security.
In an interview, accompanied by a photograph of him wearing uniform, the doctor discussed a mobile laboratory that he had designed to allow pathologists to perform post-mortems in only seven minutes in order to quickly determine the cause of death of Muslims performing the Hajj pilgrimage.
Turkish officials have also said that Dr Tubaigy was carrying a bone sawwhen he flew into Istanbul Ataturk Airport from Riyadh at 03:13 on 2 October on a private jet with the tail number HZSK2. The jet is owned by Sky Prime Aviation Services, a company that was reportedly seized by the Saudi government in an anti-corruption drive last year.
Dr Tubaigy stayed at a Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, 0.5km (0.3 miles) west of the Saudi consulate, and departed Istanbul airport on HZSK2 at 22:54 on 2 October. The jet returned to Riyadh via Dubai, landing late on 3 October.
Unnamed Turkish officials have since alleged that Dr Tubaigy can be heard in audio recordings from inside the consulate on the day of Mr Khashoggi's disappearance, when they believe the journalist was tortured, killed and dismembered by the Saudi team who flew into the country.
A man identified as the doctor can be heard recommending that other people join him in listening to music on headphones while he cuts up Mr Khashoggi's body, according to the officials.
Dr Tubaigy has not commented. But a man who said he was the doctor's uncle tweeted that he would never carry out "such criminal acts".
Mr Mutreb is believed to have spent two years working at the Saudi embassy in London. A document published by the British government in 2007 listed a man with that name as first secretary.
CNN cited a Saudi source in London who knew Mr Mutreb as describing him as a colonel in Saudi intelligence, while the popular Arabic app MenoM3ay - which enables users to see the names people have linked to phone numbers - lists a man with that name as a colonel in the royal court.
Image captionA man identified as Maher Mutreb can be seen in the far right of a photo from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in March
Photographs also show that he has travelled abroad with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on at least three occasions since March 2018, suggesting he may have had a security role.
The Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah also published pictures from CCTV footage that appeared to show Mr Mutreb entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at 09:55 on 2 October, just over three hours before the journalist arrived, and at the nearby consul-general's residence at 16:53.
Turkish media said Mr Mutreb arrived in Istanbul on the private jet HZSK2 along with Dr Tubaigy, and also stayed at the Mövenpick hotel.
He flew out of Istanbul on another private jet owned by Sky Prime Aviation with the tail number HZSK1, at 18:40 on 2 October, according to Turkish media.
The New York Times cited a French "professional" who had worked with the Saudi royal family as identifying him as a member of the security team that travels with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Someone with the same name is also listed on MenoM3ay as a member of the Saudi Royal Guard Regiment.
CCTV footage shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
Mr Alhawsawi flew to Istanbul on a commercial flight, going through passport control at 01:43 on 2 October.
He stayed at the Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levant hotel, about 1km (0.6 miles) south of the Saudi consulate, and left Istanbul on HZSK2 with Dr Tubaigy.
Last October, a man with that name serving in the Royal Guard was promoted to lieutenant for bravery in the defence of the crown prince's palace in Jeddah. In the incident, a gunman shot dead two royal guards and wounded three others before being killed.
Mr Alharbi arrived in Istanbul on the private jet HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He also flew out on the private jet HZSK1.
A man by that name is listed on MenoM3ay as a member of the Royal Guard.
A guard wearing a badge with that name also appears to have been photographed and filmed standing next to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an event in 2007, according to the activist Iyad el-Baghdadi.
Turkish media said Mr Alzahrani arrived in Istanbul on a commercial flight, and that he stayed at the Wyndham Grand and flew out on the private jet HZSK2.
But the Washington Post said a man who answered a call placed to the number listed on MenoM3ay denied being in Turkey when Mr Khashoggi disappeared.
A man by that name is identified on MenoM3ay with the Royal Guard.
The Washington Post reports that a Saudi passport held by a man with the same name was used to enter the US on trips that coincided with three visits by Saudi royals.
He flew to Istanbul on a commercial flight and stayed at the Wyndham Grand. He went through passport control at Istanbul airport at 20:28 before departing.
A Facebook account of a man with that name included photographs of someone in uniform bearing Saudi special forces insignia, according to Qutaibi Idlbi, a Saudi-born Syrian entrepreneur based in Washington who said he was an acquaintance of Mr Khashoggi
Mr Alarifi is also listed on MenoM3ay as an employee of the crown prince's office.
He arrived in Istanbul on a commercial flight and went through passport control at 16:12. He stayed at the Wyndham Grand and departed on the private jet HZSK2.
He is identified on MenoM3ay as someone who works for Saudi intelligence.
Mr Almadani arrived on HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He went through passport control at Istanbul airport at 00:18 on 3 October before leaving on a commercial flight.
The Facebook page of a man with the same name as Mr Albostani listed his position as a lieutenant in the Saudi air force.
On MenoM3ay he is described as a bodyguard in the Royal Guard, according to Mr Idlbi.
Mr Albostani went through passport control at Istanbul airport at 01:45 on 2 October and stayed at the Wyndham Grand. He departed on the private jet HZSK2.
On 18 October, the Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak reported there were claims that Mr Albostani had died in a "suspicious car accident" in Riyadh, but provided no details.
A man with that name serving in the Saudi Air Force was promoted to the rank of squadron leader by the crown prince last year, according to local media.
Mr Alsehri flew in on HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He departed on HZSK1.
A man with the same name is identified on MenoM3ay as working for Saudi intelligence, according to Qutaibi Idlbi.
A man by that name was also described as a colonel in the General Directorate of Civil Defence in a 2014 article by a local newspaper.
Mr Abahussein arrived at Istanbul airport on a commercial flight and stayed at the Wyndham Grand. He left on board HZSK2.
A man with that name is listed on MenoM3ay as a member of the Royal Guard.
Mr Albalawi arrived on one of the private jets and stayed at the Mövenpick. He flew out on HZSK1.
Someone with that name is listed on MenoM3ay as a major in Saudi intelligence, according to Mr Idlbi.
Mr Alotaibi flew into Istanbul on HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He flew out on HZSK1.
A man with his name is identified on MenoM3ay as working in the service of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Washington Post.
Mr Alqahtani arrived in Istanbul on the private jet HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He went through passport control at Istanbul airport at 00:20 on 3 October before leaving on a commercial flight.
He arrived on HZSK2 and stayed at the Mövenpick. He left on HZSK1.
Istanbul, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — A Turkish official said Friday that investigators are looking into the possibility that the remains of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been taken to a forest in the outskirts of Istanbul or to another city — if and after he was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
The official told The Associated Press that police have established that two vehicles belonging to the consulate, left the building on Oct. 2 — the day Khashoggi had walked into the consulate and vanished.
One of the vehicles traveled to the nearby Belgrade Forest while the other traveled to the city of Yalova, across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the secrecy of the ongoing investigation.
It was not immediately clear if police had already searched the areas.
Turkish reports say Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered inside the consulate by members of an assassination squad with ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis have dismissed those reports as baseless but have yet to explain what happened to Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who wrote critically of Prince Mohammed's rise to power.
President Donald Trump, who first came out hard on the Saudis over the disappearance but had since has backed off, said Thursday that it "certainly looks" as though Khashoggi is dead, and that the consequences for the Saudis "will have to be very severe" if they are found to have killed him.
Saudi Arabia has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press over recent days over Khashoggi's disappearance.
On Friday, Turkey's pro-government Sabah newspaper printed more surveillance camera photographs allegedly showing members of a Saudi team that was brought in to Turkey to dispose of Khashoggi.
A leaked surveillance photo published by the same paper on Thursday showed that a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage during several trips abroad had walked into the Saudi consulate, just before the writer disappeared there on Oct. 2.
The man, identified by Turkish officials as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has been photographed in the background of Prince Mohammed's trips to the United States, France and Spain this year.
This week, Turkish crime-scene investigators searched the Saudi consul general's residence in Istanbul and carried out a second search of the consulate itself. Authorities have not said specifically what they found, although technicians carried out bags and boxes from the consul general's home. He left Turkey on Tuesday.
Tokyo, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — An U.S. Navy helicopter crashed on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan on Friday, causing non-fatal injuries to sailors, the Navy said.
The Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement that the MH-60 Seahawk crashed shortly after takeoff Friday morning while the carrier was off the Philippine coast.
All affected sailors were in stable condition and their injuries were non-life threatening, the Navy said. It didn't say how many sailors were hurt. It said some of them would be examined and treated after they reach the shore, though officials did not specify the destination.
The Navy did not give details on any damage to the helicopter or the aircraft carrier. But it said the ship was fully capable to conduct its mission for security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The aircraft carrier also has since resumed flight training.
The Navy said the crash occurred while Ronald Reagan Strike Group was conducting routine operations in the Philippine Sea, which spreads north and northeast of the Philippines. The cause was under investigation.
USS Ronald Reagan participated in the international naval review hosted off the South Korean island of Jeju last week.
Kabul, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — A high-level meeting on security plans for Afghanistan's parliamentary elections had just concluded when an elite Afghan guard turned his gun on the departing delegation Thursday, killing the powerful Kandahar police chief but missing the top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller.
At least one other senior Afghan official was killed in the audacious assassination strike that was claimed by the Taliban and underscored the harrowing insecurity in Afghanistan two days before the elections and more than 17 years after the militant group was driven from power. A Taliban spokesman said Miller was the intended target.
However, Army Col. David Butler, who attended the meeting with Miller, said the powerful Kandahar police chief, Abdul Raziq, was clearly the target, not the U.S. general.
"It was pretty clear he was shooting at Raziq," Butler told The Associated Press, adding that Miller was nearby but not in the line of fire.
The delegates had just gathered for a group photo when gunfire broke out inside the provincial governor's compound in Kandahar city, according to an AP television cameraman who was there. Everyone scattered, and the U.S. participants scrambled toward their helicopter. But a firefight broke out between the U.S. service members and Afghan police when they tried to stop the U.S. delegation from reaching their helicopter, said the cameraman.
Besides Raziq, Kandahar's intelligence chief, Abdul Mohmin was killed in the attack, according to deputy provincial governor Agha Lala Dastageri. He said Kandahar Gov. Zalmay Wesa also died after being taken to a hospital, although security officials in the capital maintained Wesa was wounded but survived.
Three Americans — a U.S. service member, a coalition contractor and an American civilian — were injured and in stable condition, said NATO spokesman U.S. Col. Knut Peters.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the militant group carried out the attack, and Miller was the target.
Butler, however, said the assailant shot at Raziq and then appeared to spray the area with gunfire before he was killed.
He said Miller and the Afghan leaders had moved outside the palace after several hours of meetings and were standing in small groups in the compound. He said he heard several shots "and we all took cover. It was over in seconds."
"We stabilized and treated the wounded and secured the area," said Butler, adding that Miller made sure the scene was secure and the wounded were taken away by medivac before he left the area and returned to Kabul.
Razik was a particularly powerful figure in southern Kandahar and a close U.S. ally despite widespread allegations of corruption. He ruled the former Taliban heartland with an iron fist and had survived several past assassination attempts, including one last year that killed five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.
Raziq's killing "may have major implications on the security situation in southern Afghanistan. As the chief of police in Kandahar, he has kept a lid on the Taliban's insurgency, which has intensified over the past several years," analyst Bill Roggio wrote in the Long War Journal.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday's parliamentary elections, warning teachers and students not to allow schools to be used for polling and warning Afghans to stay away from the polls.
Within hours of the attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation to assure Kandahar residents it was safe to go to the polls. In an AP interview, his adviser, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, said the attack was meant to disrupt elections and urged voters to defy Taliban threats, saying casting their ballot "would be a big slap on the face of the enemy."
At a news conference in Kabul, army chief Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali said additional troops had been moved from neighboring Helmand province to Kandahar.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the killing of the Kandahar police chief is unlikely to fundamentally weaken the security situation. Speaking while in Singapore for a conference, Mattis called Raziq's death a tragic loss but said he believes the Afghan security forces have matured to the point where they can continue fighting the Taliban without him.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks and others recently in Afghanistan and said violence or threats intended to disrupt the elections were unacceptable.
Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, and its military chief condemned the assault.
"The people and the security forces of Afghanistan have been paying a heavy price due to continued instability and threats from the enemies of peace," Khan said in a statement. "Pakistan stands by the government and the people of Afghanistan in their quest for lasting peace and stability."
Security has been steadily deteriorating in Afghanistan with increasingly brazen attacks being carried out by insurgents and Afghanistan's security forces have been on high alert ahead of Saturday's elections.
Late Wednesday, a NATO convoy was attacked near the Afghan capital, killing two civilians and injuring five Czech troops, Afghan officials and the Czech military said Thursday.
The attack in the Bagram district of Parwan province, also wounded three Afghan civilians, said Wahida Shakar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Bagram, which is the home of a sprawling U.S. military base.
In recent months, Afghan troops have come under near-daily attacks. NATO troops, which handed over security to Afghan forces at the end of 2014, mostly train and assist with air power. So far this year, eight U.S. soldiers and three other NATO service members have died in Afghanistan.