Middle East/North Africa

Saudis who participated in Khashoggi killing received paramilitary training in US: report

Saudis who participated in Khashoggi killing received paramilitary training in US: report

Saudi operatives who participated the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for The Washington Post, received paramilitary training in the U.S., The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018 by a Saudi hit squad while he was at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for a marriage license. The reporter was a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Biden administration said in late February that the crown prince approved an operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi. At the time, the U.S. unveiled visa restrictions and sanctions on individuals believed to be assigned to his murder.

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According to the Times, an Arkansas-based security company called Tier 1 Group provided training to some of the operatives, though the training was reportedly “defensive” and “devised to better protect Saudi leaders.”

At the time, the unit was beginning a series of kidnappings, detentions and torture of Saudi citizens to crush dissent.

Louis Bremer, a senior executive at Tier 1’s parent company Cerberus Capital Management, confirmed Tier 1’s role in the training to the Times. He outlined details of the training in a document provided to the newspaper with written answers to questions for lawmakers as part of his nomination for a Pentagon post in the Trump administration.

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According to the document, four members of the team that killed Khashoggi received training from Tier 1 in 2017, while two of them had received a previous version of the training that ran from October 2014 to January 2015.

However, he said the training was “unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts.”

Bremer also said that in March 2019, Tier 1 Group “uncovered no wrongdoing by the company and confirmed that the established curriculum training was unrelated to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Bremer told the Times in a statement that it conducted no further training of Saudis after December 2017.

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In a statement to The Hill, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the agency “can't confirm or comment on any of the licensed defense export licensing activity alleged in media reporting.”

“Saudi Arabia faces significant threats to its territory, and we are committed to working together to help Riyadh strengthen its defenses,” Price said. “At the same time, the American people expect that U.S. policy towards its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia will prioritize the rule of law and respect for human rights, which are inseparable from the interests that the United States brings to that partnership.”

The Hill has reached out to Cerberus for comment.