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Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died in consulate, Trump says 'good first step'
File photo of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. AFP

Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died in consulate, Trump says 'good first step'

20 Oct 2018 | 3:12 PM

DUBAI/ WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia said on Saturday a missing journalist had died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate and it had fired two senior officials over his death, an account President Donald Trump said was credible.

[ + read story ]

Dubai/Glendale, Aariz./Washington, October 20

Saudi Arabia said on Saturday a missing journalist had died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate and it had fired two senior officials over his death, an account President Donald Trump said was credible but US lawmakers found hard to believe.

Saudi Arabia’s acknowledgement that Jamal Khashoggi died in the consulate came after two weeks of denials it had anything to do with his disappearance, and followed growing demands from Western allies for an explanation of what happened.

His disappearance sparked a global outcry and prompted some US lawmakers to call for harsh action against Riyadh.

Saudi state media said King Salman had ordered the dismissal of two senior officials: Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor seen as the right-hand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri, a statement on state media said.

Saudi Arabia provided no evidence to support its account of the circumstances that led to Khashoggi’s death and it was unclear whether Western allies would be satisfied with the Saudi version of events.

“I think it’s a good first step, it’s a big step. It’s a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it’s a great first step,” Trump, who has made close ties with Saudi Arabia a centerpiece of his foreign policy, told reporters in Arizona.

“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. What happened is unacceptable,” he said, adding he would speak with the crown prince.

Trump also emphasized Riyadh’s importance in countering regional rival Iran and the importance for American jobs of massive US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Some US lawmakers however were unpersuaded by Riyadh’s account.

“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” said Republican US

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia over the incident.

Trump said he would be working with Congress on next moves, but “I would prefer that we don’t use as retribution cancelling $110 billion worth of work, which means 6,00,000 jobs ... we need them as a counterbalance to Iran.”

Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince who lived in the United States and was a Washington Post columnist, had led to mounting pressure from the West on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.

He went missing after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. Days later, Turkish officials said they believed he was killed in the building, an allegation Saudi Arabia had, until now, strenuously denied.

In a separate statement on Saturday, the Saudi public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

“The investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested,” the statement said.

Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate. Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak has published what it said were details from the audio. It said Khashoggi’s torturers cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.

Before the Saudi announcements, Trump said he might consider sanctions, although he has also appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudi leadership.

Other Western allies have yet to react to Riyadh’s explanation and a main question will be whether they believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has painted himself as a reformer, has no culpability.

King Salman has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son, commonly known as MbS.

But, the disappearance of Khashoggi has tarnished Prince Mohammed’s reputation and deepened questions about his leadership.

The growing crisis prompted the king to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family told Reuters.

The king also ordered the formation of a ministerial committee headed by the crown prince to restructure the general intelligence agency, state media said on Friday, suggesting MbS still retained wide-ranging authorities.

The White House said in a statement it would continue to press for “justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.”

Republican Senator Rand Paul tweeted: “We should also halt all military sales, aid and cooperation immediately. There must be a severe price for these actions by Saudi Arabia.” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN the Saudi explanation “absolutely defies credibility” while Democratic Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Saudis were still not coming clean with the truth.

“This appears to have been a deliberate, planned act followed by a cover up,” he said in a statement. “You don’t bring 15 men and a bone saw to a fist fight with a 60 year old.” In an earlier rebuke to Riyadh, senior officials from several governments, including US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, executives from major companies, and international media commentators withdrew from a high-profile investment conference slated for later this month.

‘No orders to kill him’

Qahtani, 40, entered the royal court under the late King Abdullah but only rose to prominence after latching onto Prince Mohammed, becoming a rare confidante in his secretive inner circle.

Sources say Qahtani would regularly speak on behalf of the crown prince and has given direct orders to senior officials including in the country’s security apparatus.

People close to Khashoggi and the government said Qahtani had tried to lure the journalist back to Saudi Arabia after he moved to Washington a year ago fearing reprisals for his views.

In a Twitter thread from August 2017 asking his 1.35 million followers to flag accounts to include in a black list for monitoring, Qahtani wrote: “Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the faithful crown prince.”

In a tweet on Saturday, he thanked the king and crown prince for the “big confidence” they had in him.

The other dismissed official, Asiri had joined the Saudi military in 2002, according to Saudi media reports, serving as spokesman for a coalition backing Yemen’s ousted president after Prince Mohammed led Saudi Arabia into that country’s civil war in 2015. Asiri was named deputy chief of foreign intelligence by royal decree in April 2017.

The crown prince had no knowledge of the specific operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death, a Saudi official familiar with the investigation said.

“There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. There was a standing order to bring critics of the kingdom back to the country, he added.

“MbS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back,” the official said.

The official said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were unclear after it was handed over to a “local cooperator” but there was no sign of it at the consulate.

The public prosecutor’s statement did not specify where the operatives had put Khashoggi’s body or if they plan to inform the Turks. The Saudi official told Reuters, “We don’t know for certain what happened to the body.”

Saudi critics said it was obvious the authorities didn’t want to hand over Khashoggi’s body as it would reveal how badly he was tortured.

In Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance questioned Turkish employees of the Saudi consulate on Friday. Turkish police searched a forest on Istanbul’s outskirts and a city near the Sea of Marmara for Khashoggi’s remains, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters.

Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted in Arabic: “The heart grieves, the eye tears, and with your separation we are saddened, my dear Jamal,” she said, also asking “#where is martyr Khashoggi’s body?” Reuters

Khashoggi: From Saudi royal insider to open critic

Khashoggi: From Saudi royal insider to open critic

20 Oct 2018 | 12:53 PM

DUBAI: A complex man of contradictions, journalist Jamal Khashoggi went from being a Saudi royal family insider to an outspoken critic of the ultra-conservative kingdom’s government, and was ultimately killed inside its consulate in Istanbul.

Afghans vote amid chaos, corruption and Taliban threats

Afghans vote amid chaos, corruption and Taliban threats

20 Oct 2018 | 1:07 PM

KABUL: Afghans began voting on Saturday in parliamentary elections overshadowed by chaotic organisation, allegations of corruption and violence that has forced a postponement of the vote in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.

Thousands rally in Taiwan, call for referendum on independence from China

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20 Oct 2018 | 3:26 PM

TAIPEI: Several thousand pro-independence demonstrators rallied in Taiwan’s capital on Saturday to protest against Beijing’s “bullying” and called for a referendum on whether the self-ruled island should formally declare independence from China.

World’s longest sea bridge between China-Hong Kong to open on Oct 24

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:12 PM

BEIJING: The world’s longest sea bridge Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will be thrown open for traffic on October 24, the authorities said on Saturday.

Australia’s govt set to lose majority in landslide by-election defeat

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20 Oct 2018 | 3:17 PM

SYDNEY: Australia’s centre-right government is poised to lose its one-seat majority in Parliament after early counting in a crucial by-election on Saturday showed voters deserting the Scott Morrison-led government.

‘Anonymous Facebook ads influenced nearly 10 mn British voters’

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:26 PM

LONDON: An anonymous political campaign on Facebook has reached nearly 10 million voters, asking them via advertisements to oppose British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the media reported on Saturday.

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:56 PM

DETROIT: About 36 fetuses and remains of infants have been removed from a Detroit funeral home, the second facility where remains have been improperly disposed.

Migrant caravan halted on Mexico-Guatemala border, pressure to turn back mounts

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:25 PM

TECUN UMAN: Hundreds of people in a caravan of migrants that crossed from Honduras into Guatemala staged a dramatic bid to breach the Mexican border on Friday, as local governments began preparing to disperse the convoy under pressure from Washington.

Russian woman charged in first 2018 election meddling case

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:18 PM

WASHINGTON: The US has accused a Russian woman of helping oversee the finances of a sweeping, secretive effort to sway American public opinion through social media in the first federal case alleging foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections.

IS releases 6 of 27 Druze hostages held in southern Syria: Monitor

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:21 PM

BEIRUT: The Islamic State group has released six of 27 Druze hostages it seized during a deadly July attack in Syria’s Sweida province in exchange for a prisoner swap and ransom, a monitor said on Saturday.

Vancouver mayor departs with green goal still uncertain

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:43 AM

SEATTLE:When Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson campaigned for his job in 2008, he made a bold promise: To make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020.

FB hires Clegg  as global affairs head

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:44 AM

LONDON: British former deputy PM Nick Clegg, a leading anti-Brexit advocate, said on Friday he would be starting a job at Facebook, as the US giant faces up to regulatory pressures.

Chinese typewriter exhibition held in New Yorkglobe trot

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20 Oct 2018 | 1:44 AM

New York: An exhibition featuring Chinese typewriters and processors opened in New York city, offering unprecedented insight into the still-transforming history of one of the world’s oldest living languages.

China plans to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020

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20 Oct 2018 | 10:03 AM

BEIJING: China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday.

Facebook hires British ex-deputy PM as global affairs head

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19 Oct 2018 | 9:30 PM

LONDON: British former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a leading anti-Brexit advocate, said on Friday he would be starting a job at Facebook, as the US giant faces up to regulatory pressures.

Six dead in fire at Rohingya camp in Myanmar

19 Oct 2018 | 7:00 PM

YANGON: Six Rohingya were killed early Friday after a blaze tore through an overcrowded camp for the persecuted minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the local fire service said.

Afghanistan delays vote in strategic Kandahar after killing of commander

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19 Oct 2018 | 7:03 PM

KABUL: Saturday’s parliamentary election in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar will be delayed by a week after the assassination of one of the country’s most powerful security chiefs dealt a stunning blow to the Western-backed government.

EU to sign trade deal with Singapore, avoid criticising China

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19 Oct 2018 | 4:25 PM

BRUSSELS: The European Union was set to sign a trade deal with Singapore on Friday after talks with Asian leaders keen to push back against US protectionism, but efforts to encourage China to state subsidies ran into resistance from Beijing.

Turkey denies giving ‘any kind of audio tape’ on Khashoggi to US

19 Oct 2018 | 3:59 PM

ISTANBUL: Turkey on Friday denied giving “any kind of audio tape” from the investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or any American official.

Trump praises congressman for assaulting reporter

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19 Oct 2018 | 2:52 PM

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has praised Montana Republican Representative Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporter during his campaign last May and called him "my guy".

China’s ex-internet tsar pleads guilty to taking bribes

China’s ex-internet tsar pleads guilty to taking bribes

19 Oct 2018 | 7:04 PM

BEIJING: The former head of China’s censorship apparatus, Lu Wei, pleaded guilty to accepting 32 million yuan (USD 4.6 million) in bribes at a trial on Friday.

Facebook now has a War Room to fight election interference

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19 Oct 2018 | 11:55 AM

SAN FRANCISCO: In line with its efforts to prevent misuse of its platform during elections, Facebook has set up a War Room to reduce the spread of potentially harmful content.

Khashoggi’s ‘last piece’ calls for free press

Khashoggi’s ‘last piece’ calls for free press

19 Oct 2018 | 12:44 AM

WASHINGTON: Two weeks after he disappeared, The Washington Post has published what it said appears to be Jamal Khashoggi’s final column, in which the missing Saudi journalist writes of the importance of a free press in the Arab world.

Malaysia Oppn leader arrested for corruption

Malaysia Oppn leader arrested for corruption

19 Oct 2018 | 12:01 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Opposition leader was arrested Thursday on suspicion of corruption, a fresh blow to his party which was ousted at elections this year after six decades in power.

Maldives court frees Gayoom

Maldives court frees Gayoom

19 Oct 2018 | 12:01 AM

COLOMBO: A Maldivian court overturned the 19-month jail term of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Thursday, a month after the former President's estranged half-brother and jailer suffered a shock election drubbing.

Pope open to N Korea visit

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19 Oct 2018 | 12:01 AM

VATICAN: Pope Francis indicated his willingness to visit North Korea during a private audience with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Vatican on Thursday.

116 Pakistan cops suspended over ’14 firing incident

19 Oct 2018 | 12:01 AM

LAHORE: Authorities in Pakistan’s Punjab province have suspended 116 policemen in connection with the killing of demonstrators during a protest here in 2014.

OverwhelmedGlobe Trot

Overwhelmed

19 Oct 2018 | 12:01 AM

MELBOURNE: Prince Harry embraces a fan during a public walk in Melbourne on Thursday. Thousands of royal fans waited in the rain to get a glimpse of Prince Harry and his pregnant wife Meghan, with some overwhelmed by the experience.

Afghan police chief killed in shooting on US security meeting

Afghan police chief killed in shooting on US security meeting

18 Oct 2018 | 10:47 PM

KANDAHAR: A powerful Afghan police chief and a journalist were among at least three people killed on Thursday when a gunman opened fire on a high-level security meeting attended by top US commander General Scott Miller, officials said.

Maldives court frees ex-leader Abdul Gayoom

Maldives court frees ex-leader Abdul Gayoom

18 Oct 2018 | 7:04 PM

COLOMBO: A Maldivian court overturned the 19-month jail term of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Thursday, a month after the former president's estranged half-brother suffered a shock election drubbing.

Pak may not seek IMF bailout; seeking help from ‘friendly countries’: PM Khan

Pak may not seek IMF bailout; seeking help from ‘friendly countries’: PM Khan

18 Oct 2018 | 6:36 PM

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may not have to approach the IMF for loans as it has received “positive” responses from some “friendly countries”, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said, days after Islamabad formally approached the global lender for a bailout to tide over the economic crisis.

London’s black cabs soon to be seen on the streets of Paris

London’s black cabs soon to be seen on the streets of Paris

18 Oct 2018 | 5:09 PM

LONDON: London’s black cabs will be seen on the streets of Paris next year as the company that makes them begins selling its wares in the City of Light.

Typhoons trick Japan blossoms into blooming six months early

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18 Oct 2018 | 1:08 PM

TOKYO: Cherry blossoms across Japan have bloomed six months early after two powerful typhoons pummelled the country in September, stripping leaves, bringing a warm snap and turning the trees unseasonably pink.

US Congressman seeks immediate designation of Pak as state sponsor of terrorism

US Congressman seeks immediate designation of Pak as state sponsor of terrorism

18 Oct 2018 | 12:48 PM

WASHINGTON: A top Republican lawmaker has urged the Trump administration to immediately designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism and terminate its non-NATO ally status.

Passengers stranded as Cypriot airline goes bust

Passengers stranded as Cypriot airline goes bust

18 Oct 2018 | 12:47 PM

LARNACA: Cypriot low-cost carrier Cobalt Air announced it was cancelling all flights from Thursday after just two years in operation, leaving passengers stranded and scrambling to get their money back.

French Finance Minister to shun Saudi conference over missing journalist

French Finance Minister to shun Saudi conference over missing journalist

18 Oct 2018 | 12:31 PM

PARIS: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire added his name to a growing list of government ministers and prominent business executives cancelling their attendance at a Saudi Arabia investment conference over the fate of a Saudi journalist.

Britain says time’s up for sex predators in global aid sector

Britain says time’s up for sex predators in global aid sector

18 Oct 2018 | 12:02 PM

LONDON: Time is up for sexual predators in the aid sector, Britain’s development minister said on Thursday, as she announced new measures to clamp down on sexual abuse and exploitation after a series of scandals.

Family members say 7 Venezuelans killed in remote gold mine

Family members say 7 Venezuelans killed in remote gold mine

18 Oct 2018 | 11:49 AM

TUMEREMO: Seven people were killed near a remote gold mine in southeastern Venezuela, family members said on Wednesday, the latest in a number of violent incidents related to illegal mining in the crisis-stricken country.

McConnell says Senate Republicans might revisit Obamacare repeal

McConnell says Senate Republicans might revisit Obamacare repeal

18 Oct 2018 | 11:40 AM

WASHINGTON: Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in US elections next month, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday, calling a failed 2017 push to repeal the healthcare law a “disappointment.”

Trump to nominate former Air Force general as top Asia diplomat

Trump to nominate former Air Force general as top Asia diplomat

18 Oct 2018 | 11:36 AM

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump plans to nominate former Air Force General David Stilwell to be the State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia, a post that has remained unfilled for more than a year despite major challenges in the region.

Facebook tentatively concludes spammers were behind recent data breach: WSJ

Facebook tentatively concludes spammers were behind recent data breach: WSJ

18 Oct 2018 | 11:33 AM

Facebook Inc has tentatively concluded that spammers looking to make money, and not a nation-state, were behind the largest-ever data theft at the social media company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Man sentenced to more than 24 years for Texas mosque fire

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18 Oct 2018 | 11:30 AM

VICTORIA (US): A man convicted of torching a South Texas mosque last year has been sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.

Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

18 Oct 2018 | 11:16 AM

YANGON: Crossing a bridge to the middle of a lake in Myanmar’s Yangon region, pilgrims arrive at a temple to pin their hopes on the pythons slinking across the temple’s floors and draped across windows.

Australia’s Queensland state legalises abortion

Australia’s Queensland state legalises abortion

18 Oct 2018 | 11:09 AM

SYDNEY: Queensland lawmakers have voted to legalise abortion, overturning a century-old “morality” law and capping a 50-year campaign in Australia’s most conservative state.

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