Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a "fistfight" in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the kingdom claimed Saturday, admitting for the first time the writer had been slain at its diplomatic post, the AP reports. Authorities say 18 Saudi suspects were in custody for his slaying and that four top intelligence officials had been fired. The overnight announcements in Saudi state media came more than two weeks after Khashoggi, 59, entered Istanbul's Saudi Consulate for paperwork required to marry his Turkish fiancee and never came out. Since his disappearance, the kingdom had rejected as "baseless" Turkish fears he was killed and dismembered there, but growing international pressure and comments by US officials seem to have forced the kingdom to acknowledge the slaying. While it fired officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom stopped short of implicating him.
The Saudi statements didn't ID the 18 Saudis being detained, nor explain what happened to Khashoggi's body. It also offered a far different version of events than those of Turkish officials, who've said an "assassination squad" from the kingdom, including an official from Prince Mohammed's entourage and an "autopsy expert," flew in ahead of time and laid in wait for Khashoggi at the consulate. In a statement Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the US will closely follow international investigations into Khashoggi's death and will call for justice that is "timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process." Trump called the Saudi announcement a "good first step" but said what happened to Khashoggi was "unacceptable." Doubts remain on the Saudi story: California Rep. Adam Schiff called the Saudi claims "not credible," while GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement." (Read more Jamal Khashoggi stories.)