Four citizens of Saudi Arabia, who took part in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, earlier underwent paramilitary training on the US territory, The New York Times newspaper said on its website.
According to the paper’s sources and documents obtained by its journalists, "four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department."
The training took place when "the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman" in order to "crush dissent."
The training was "defensive in nature" and included "safe marksmanship" and "countering an attack." According to one of the sources, the operatives were also instructed about surveillance and close-quarters battle. It was presumed that the training, conducted by Arkansas-based Tier 1 Group, would help them to "better protect Saudi leaders."
According to the paper, "there is no evidence that the American officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia."
The license, allowing to start the course, was issued under former US President Barack Obama’s administration. The training continued during at least the first year of his successor Donald Trump, TASS reports.
Tier 1 Group’s parent company said the training course "was unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts."
Khashoggi, known for his criticism of Riyadh’s policies, left his native Saudi Arabia and relocated to the United States in 2017, where he began working for The Washington Post. There he analyzed the situation in Saudi Arabia and the country’s foreign policy. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and disappeared. On October 20, 2018, Saudi authorities announced that the journalist had died in a fight in the Saudi diplomatic mission. The international community condemned Khashoggi’s murder and called for a transparent investigation.
On November 15, 2018, Saudi prosecutors published the preliminary results of the investigation: 11 people were charged for involvement in the murder, five of them faced death sentences. According to Riyadh, those involved in the murder first planned to transport Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia instead of killing him. On December 5, 2018, a Turkish court issued arrest warrants for former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services Ahmad Asiri, Saud al-Qahtani, and 15 Saudi citizens accused of Khashoggi’s murder.
On December 23, 2019, a Saudi court found five people guilty in the journalist’s murder case, and sentenced them to death. Three more people have been sentenced to 24 years behind bars.