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Four Saudi operatives who participated in the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul were trained in paramilitary tactics in the U.S. in 2017 by a private security company, Tier 1 Group, The New York Times reports. Tier 1, based in Arkansas and owned by New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, trained the Saudis under a contract approved by the State Department, during a harsh crackdown on dissidents and royal rivals by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported the Tier 1 training in 2019, and senior Cerberus executive Louis Bremer confirmed it to the Times.
Congress had asked Bremer about Tier 1's training of Khashoggi's killers during his confirmation process for a top Pentagon job. "The training provided was unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts," he said in a written answer he provided to the Times but Congress never saw because the Trump White House pulled his nomination. In a statement to the Times, Bremer called the training "protective in nature" and condemned "the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi."
The U.S. concluded that bin Salman ordered or approved the 15-man hit squad's operation to "capture or kill" Khashoggi inside Istanbul's Saudi consulate, according to a U.S. intelligence report declassified in February. Bin Salman has publicly denied knowledge of the operation.
Saudi prosecutors charged 11 lower-level operatives with Khashoggi's murder, convicted eight of them in secret trials, and condemned five to death, later cutting those sentences to 20 years, served "in a luxury compound outside Riyadh," Yahoo News reports, citing Saudi and U.S. intelligence sources. Turkish embassy officials were allowed to sit in on the secret trials, and their notes are public records in Turkey, Yahoo's Michael Isikoff reported last week.
According to the Turkish notes, the Gulfstream jet carrying the Saudi kill team to Istanbul early Oct. 2, 2018, stopped in Egypt on the way to pick up a lethal dose of an illegal narcotic, presumably from Egyptian intelligence, according to Yahoo's translation. Kill team member Dr. Salah Tubaigy "injected Khashoggi in his left arm [with] a drug whose sale is illegal and which he brought from Cairo in high dosage that would be enough to kill him," the notes say, and the drugs did kill him within minutes.
Tubaigy is believed to have dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw, the body parts disposed of in some manner.