The four men - part of a Saudi kill team - who eliminated Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, received paramilitary training in the United States, the New York Times (NYT) reported on Tuesday. Citing documents and people familiar with the developments, NYT reported that the training was given under a contract approved by the US state department.
The report said that the training was provided by Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The training included "safe marksmanship" and "countering an attack", according to the NYT report, which quoted the company to say that it was devised to better protect Saudi leaders.
The news report further points out that the American officials who approved the training knew the Saudis were involved in the crackdown.
Responding to the NYT report, state department spokesperson Ned Price said the department cannot comment "on any of the licensed defence export licensing activity alleged in media reporting". Price also said US policy towards Saudi Arabia "will prioritise the rule of law and respect for human rights."
Cerberus senior executive Louis Bremer confirmed his company's role in the training of four members of the Khashoggi kill team last year in written answers to questions from members of Congress as part of his nomination for a senior Pentagon job in former President Donald Trump's administration, according to NYT.
But, NYT said, the lawmakers never received the answers because the Trump administration does not appear to have sent them to Congress before withdrawing Bremer's nomination.
Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. A US intelligence report in February said the crown prince had approved an operation to capture or kill the journalist.