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US lawmakers say they are skeptical of Saudi explanation on Khashoggi's death

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senator Lindsey Graham delivers remarks on Capitol Hill on September 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Several US lawmakers in Congress say they are skeptical of Saudi Arabia’s explanation for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after Riyadh claimed he died in a "fistfight" in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia after the disappearance of Khashoggi on October 2.

“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” Graham said on Twitter on Friday.

During a televised interview earlier this week, Graham said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "has got to go."

US Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, said Saudi Arabia's claim that Khashoggi was "killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible."

He was "fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him," said Schiff, a senior member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

Khashoggi, 59, was a Washington Post columnist and lived in the US, having fled Saudi Arabia in September last year. He was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia faces growing criticism from US lawmakers over Khashoggi’s slaying. Washington is Riyadh’s most-crucial ally.

Growing international pressure and comments by US officials up to President Donald Trump forced the kingdom to acknowledge Khashoggi's death.

Trump called the Saudi announcement that Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate a "good first step," but said what happened to Khashoggi was "unacceptable."

Trump has said that the consequences for the Saudis "will have to be very severe" if they are found to have killed Khashoggi, but has acknowledged he wants to protect Washington’s massive arms sale to the kingdom.

The incident has grown into a public relations nightmare for the kingdom and the crown prince in particular.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International separately have been calling for a United Nations investigation into Khashoggi's killing.

In an attempt to contain the damage, Riyadh said it had sacked several officials, including Ahmad al-Assiri, a top general in the General Intelligence Agency (GIA) and a close aide to bin Salman.

Furthermore, Saudi King Salman ordered the formation of a ministerial committee to restructure the GIA. Ironically enough, the committee would be headed by none other than bin Salman himself.

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