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After More Than Two Weeks, Saudi Arabia Says Jamal Khashoggi is Dead. Here’s What We Know.

Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time Saturday that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist missing since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul more than two weeks ago, was dead. It was the latest twist in a fast-moving saga that has tarnished the reputation of the Saudi Arabia and its powerful 33-year-old crown prince.

Even for those who have watched the developments closely, it has been difficult to keep up. Here are some of the most important recent updates:

•Saudi state media said Mr. Khashoggi died after an argument and fistfight with unidentified Saudi men inside the Saudi Consulate and that 18 men were arrested and are under investigation. None were identified.

•Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence, and other high-ranking intelligence officials have been dismissed.

The bulk of evidence has come from leaks by Turkish authorities to pro-government news outlets. That information included the identification of 15 Saudis who Turkish officials said had been sent to assassinate Mr. Khashoggi and dispose of his body.

Details in an audio recording from inside the consulate show that Saudi agents were waiting when Mr. Khashoggi walked into the building, and that he was dead within minutes, a senior Turkish official said. The audio revealed that Mr. Khashoggi was beheaded and dismembered, and his fingers severed, and that within two hours the killers were gone.

The New York Times confirmed that at least nine of the 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries.

One of those men, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has traveled extensively with Crown Prince Mohammed, including in recent trips to the United States, perhaps as a bodyguard. On Thursday, the Turkish pro-government news outlet Sabah released photos showing Mr. Mutreb entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul hours before Mr. Khashoggi arrived on Oct. 2.

Another suspect, Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, is an autopsy expert, lending credence to reports that the writer’s assassination was planned.

American intelligence agencies have become increasingly convinced that Prince Mohammed is culpable.

When Mr. Khashoggi disappeared, the Saudi government first said it had no information on the writer’s whereabouts. Officials, including Prince Mohammed himself, said that Mr. Khashoggi had left the consulate freely, and that they had no knowledge of what happened to him.

As information continued to flow from Turkish officials, Saudi Arabia forcefully denied its involvement. Then, as the evidence piled up, Saudi officials changed course, finally admitting on Saturday that he died inside the consulate but calling it the result of an argument and fistfight.

The Saudi authorities also appeared to be laying the basis to blame General al-Assiri, who also has close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed, in an effort to deflect blame from the crown prince himself.

After Mr. Trump was briefed by Mr. Pompeo upon his return from Istanbul, on Thursday, the president seemed to have altered his views, saying he believed Mr. Khashoggi was dead. He expressed confidence in several intelligence reports that suggested a Saudi role in his assassination.

The same day, Mr. Mnuchin announced his withdrawal from the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh next week after facing backlash over a decision to attend in the midst of the unresolved scandal.

Mr. Pompeo, who briefed reporters outside the White House on Thursday, said that the United States would give the Saudis a few more days to conduct their investigation, and that the report would be “transparent for everyone to see, to ask questions about and to acquire.”

Source: NYT > World

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