Saudi king reasserts authority, ordering crown prince to overhaul intelligence agency following Khashoggi murder admission
The young crown prince, who is reported to have known of the killing of Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate, was appointed to lead the restructuring of the agency by his father, King Salman.
The royal order followed an official Saudi acknowledgement of the 60-year-old journalist's death, which Riyadh said was a result of a "fist fight" in the consulate - rejecting grisly claims of his dismemberment leaked in recent days by Turkish sources.
The admission from Riyadh follows weeks of Saudi officials insisting Khashoggi had left the building alive and well.
"The discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul... devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death," the Saudi Press Agency said, citing the public prosecutor.
Saudi authorities said 18 Saudi nationals were being investigated for their involvement in the murder, noting a royal order dismissing Ahmad al-Assiri, the deputy intelligence chief and a former spokesman for Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, alongside Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The United States was "saddened" by the confirmation of Khashoggi's death, the White House said in a statement.
On Friday, staff members from Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul testified at the chief prosecutor's office as part of a probe into his disappearance, Anadolu reported.
The announcement did not clarify where Khashoggi’s body was, although Turkish media has previously reported he was tortured and then decapitated using a "bone saw" that was brought over from Saudi Arabia for that purpose.
Pro-government newspaper Sabah reported at the weekend that Khashoggi's Apple Watch recorded his interrogation, torture and killing, although some experts have said it is not likely that the watch could have recorded the events in the manner described.
That report said interrogators had unlocked Khashoggi's Apple Watch using his fingerprint after discovering it was sending transmissions, but that line of Apple products doesn't offer the TouchID feature.
According to Yeni Safak, Mohammed al-Otaibi, Saudi Arabia's consul to Istanbul, can be heard on one tape saying during Khashoggi's torture: "Do this outside. You are going to get me in trouble".
The daily reported an unknown individual replies to Otaibi: "If you want to live when you come to Saudi Arabia, be quiet!"
Yeni Safak did not say how the tapes came into existence or how it had obtained them.
Khashoggi vanished on 2 October after entering the consulate for official documents ahead of his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancee.