TEMPO.CO, Dubai - Saudi Arabia said on Friday, Oct. 19, that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate. It said that it had fired two senior officials over the incident, giving an account that U.S. President Donald Trump said was credible.
Saudi Arabia's acknowledgment that Khashoggi died came after two weeks of denials and growing demands from Western allies for an explanation over Khashoggi's disappearance, which galvanized a global outcry and prompted some U.S. lawmakers to call for harsh action against Riyadh.
Saudi state media said King Salman had ordered the dismissal of two senior officials over the incident: Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor seen as the right-hand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri, a statement on state media said.
"I think it's a good first step, it's a big step. It's a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it's a great first step," Trump told reporters.
"Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. What happened is unacceptable."
Though Trump said Riyadh's account was credible, it drew doubt from some U.S. lawmakers.
Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, went missing after entering the consulate on Oct. 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. Days later, Turkish officials said they believed he was killed in the building, an allegation that Saudi Arabia had, until now, strenuously denied.
In a separate statement on Saturday, the Saudi public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.
"The investigations are still underway and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested," the statement said.
The disappearance of Khashoggi, a U.S.residentandWashingtonPost columnist, had led to mounting pressure from the West on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.
Before the Saudi announcements, Trump said he might consider sanctions, although he has also appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudis, citing Riyadh's role in countering Iranian influence in the Middle East and lucrative potential arms deals.
The White House said in a statement that it had seen the Saudi announcement and would continue to press for "justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process."
But some U.S. lawmakers expressed doubt about the Saudi explanation.
Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi's murder inside the consulate. Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak has published what it said were details from the audio. It said Khashoggi's torturers had severed his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.