Riyadh: Four Saudis involved in killing American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 received paramilitary training in the United States that was approved by the State Department, The New York Times reported late Tuesday. Saudi-born Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post and former a close friend of the Saudi leadership, was an outspoken critic. He was murdered on 2nd October 2018, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by agents sent from Saudi Arabia. The New York Times reported that four of those operatives had been trained by a private American security firm, Tier 1 Group, a move authorized by former President Barack Obama’s administration. Until Donald Trump became president, that training continued.
The paper cited a document from a top executive of Cerberus Capital Management, the parent company of Tier 1 Group, which applied for an upper-level position at the Pentagon. Louis Bremer confirmed that Tier 1 Group had trained the Saudi agents, but said that the training was ‘protective in nature’ and ‘unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts’. Bremer said the four members of the kill team completed the training in 2017, and two of them had already participated in a previous course from October 2014 to January 2015. The US State Department said it could not comment on this information but urged responsible use of American military equipment and training.
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Seven members of an elite unit protecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were part of the hit squad that killed Khashoggi, according to a US report released in February. There was no indication in the New York Times whether the American-trained operatives belonged to this unit or not. It is not known where the dissident journalist’s body, dismembered on the spot, was found. In response to Riyadh’s denial of the assassination, Riyadh claimed that Saudi agents had carried out the murder alone. Five Saudis were sentenced to death and three to prison terms in an opaque trial in Saudi Arabia. There have been commutations of death sentences since then.