Saudi Arabia has acknowledged for the first time the death of Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul, with Saudi state-run media reporting the missing journalist had died as a result of a violent "fistfight."
The official Saudi Press Agency on October 20 cited an initial investigation by Saudi prosecutors saying that "an argument erupted between [Khashoggi] and others whom he met in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, leading to a fistfight which led to his death."
"The kingdom expresses its deep regret," the agency said.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was critical of the Saudi royal family, went missing on October 2 after he entered the consulate to get papers for his wedding.
Prosecutors said that 18 people, all Saudi nationals, have so far been arrested, SPA reported.
The Saudi public prosecutor said that royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Asiri have been sacked from their positions.
The announcement followed days of shifting explanations from Saudi officials.
Unnamed Turkish and U.S. officials have been quoted in news reports as saying that Khashoggi was killed shortly after he entered the consulate by a team of Saudi officials and then dismembered. Initial press reports said his Apple Watch may have recorded audio and video of the killing.
Khashoggi’s death has prompted sharp criticism in the West.
"We expect transparency from Saudi Arabia about the circumstances of his death....The information available about events in the Istanbul consulate is inadequate,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement issued October 20 along with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made close ties with Riyadh a centerpiece of his foreign policy, called the Saudi announcement a "good first step," but said what happened to Khashoggi was "unacceptable."