Saudi Arabia said it is investigating senior intelligence officials who oversaw a botched interrogation of Jamal Khashoggi, the former newspaper editor and political advisor who was killed at the country's consulate in Istanbul.
An official announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said Khashoggi died during a confrontation with the interrogation team. Eighteen suspects, all Saudi citizens, have been detained in relation to the case. It was confirmed last night that senior intelligence figure Ahmed Al Assiri and royal court advisor Saud Al Qahtani were dismissed.
Leading figures in the royal court backed a plan to question Khashoggi over his political activities. However, the encounter during the consular appointment appears to have taken a tragic turn and members of the interrogation team fell under investigation.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said the investigation was ongoing and pledged that "all those complicit would be held accountable and be brought to justice".
Prosecutors said the suspects travelled to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi after learning of the possibility that the writer wanted to return home but the discussions turned sour, leading to a confrontation.
"Discussions that took place between citizen Jamal Khashoggi [and] the persons who met him during his presence at the consulate in Istanbul led to a fist fight and quarrel that caused his death. The kingdom expresses its deep regret," the statement read.
Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate just over two weeks ago. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia's King Salman discussed the investigation on Friday.
Khashoggi, a former spokesman for Prince Turki Al Faisal, who served as ambassador to Washington and London, had previously been editor of Al Watan newspaper.
In the days after the incident, US President Donald Trump discussed the disappearance with King Salman and dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a mission to both countries.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey agreed to form a joint working group to investigate Khashoggi's disappearance. King Salman subsequently ordered the Saudi public prosecutor to open an inquiry based on its findings. The statement from the prosecutor general said the investigation is ongoing until all the facts are known.
Saudi Arabia's press agency also announced that King Salman ordered the establishment of a ministerial committee, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to restructure the leadership of the intelligence services and reform its practices.
In an unprecedented reshuffle, the royal court also dismissed three other senior officers, including two assistants to the head of the intelligence services.
A White House statement said the latest Saudi announcements confirmed Khashoggi’s death.
“The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far," Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary said. "We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.”