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Monday, April 15, 2024

US trained Saudis who killed journalist Khashoggi

New York Times believes that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Four Saudis who were involved in the death of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 received paramilitary training in the US the year prior, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The contract for the paramilitary training was approved by the State Department and carried out by a contracted group called Tier 1, according to documents and sources familiar with the matter, The Times reported.

“The State Department initially granted a license for the paramilitary training of the Saudi Royal Guard to Tier 1 Group starting in 2014, during the Obama administration,” according to The Times. “The training continued during at least the first year of former President Donald J. Trump’s term.”

Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group provided the paramilitary training. The company said the training was defensive in nature and intended to teach how to better protect Saudi leaders, including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack,” The Times reported.

Read more: RSF files criminal suit against Saudi prince over Khashoggi killing

Louis Bremer, a senior executive of Cerberus, the parent company of Tier 1 Group, confirmed the company’s role in the paramilitary training in response to questions from lawmakers as part of his nomination for a high-ranking position at the Pentagon during the Trump administration.

The document containing Bremer’s answers, which he provided to The Times, confirmed that four members of the team behind Khashoggi’s death received training in 2017 from Tier 1 Group, and two members previously participated in another iteration of the training between October 2014 and January 2015.

In his responses, Bremer said that a review of the Tier 1 Group training in March 2019 “uncovered no wrongdoing by the company and confirmed that the established curriculum training was unrelated to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

“The training provided was unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts,” Bremer said in his responses, citing The Times report.

The Trump administration ended up withdrawing Bremer’s nomination for the top Pentagon position and did not send the document to Congress, so lawmakers never received responses to their questions, according to The Times. Insider reached out to the State Department for comment.

Khashoggi, a prominent commentator and columnist for The Post, was once within the Royal family’s circle, but their opinion of him soured once his work became more critical of the Saudi royal family’s dealings.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018; he was dismembered by Saudi agents. Khashoggi went to the consulate to pick up marital documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. His remains have yet to be found.

In February, the Biden administration declassified a CIA intelligence report, which directly implicated the Saudi Crown Prince in Khashoggi’s murder.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” said the report, provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Read more: US accuses Saudi crown prince of approving Khashoggi’s murder

A UN report issued after Khashoggi’s killing seconded the claim, saying that, “Assessments of the recordings by intelligence officers in Turkey and other countries suggest that Mr. Khashoggi could have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated using a plastic bag.”

Turkish officials, along with UN and US officials, corroborated that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bone saw.

A Turkish court is currently trying 26 Saudi nationals connected to the murder, in absentia, with the next trial date set for July 8. The Saudi government, after a series of excuses, admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation,” and placed 11 individuals on trial.

Five people were sentenced to death in December 2019 by the Riyadh Criminal Court for “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim,” and three others were handed prison sentences. Three others were found to be innocent in a trial the UN heavily criticized, and Ahmad Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, two high ranking officials close to MBS scraped by with no charges.

After the ruling, Cengiz said, “The ruling handed down today in Saudi Arabia again makes a complete mockery of justice.”

Read more: Highly anticipated Khashoggi murder report likely to blame Saudi crown prince

Khashoggi’s murder ignited a global pressure campaign against the Saudi regime, prompting officials in the US and abroad to briefly question their diplomatic relationships with Saudi Arabia.

After President Biden’s first meeting with MBS in early March, he reportedly refused to sanction the Saudi regime over Khashoggi’s killing.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk