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SAUDIS who were involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States a year earlier under a state-approved contract, official documents have revealed.
The training of the four men was provided by Arkansas-based security company Tier 1 Group, owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, according to the New York Times.
Tier 1 Group said that the training, which includes “countering an attack,” was defensive in nature and devised to protect Saudi leaders.
One person who was familiar with the training said that it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.
Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.
The journalist wrote opinion columns critical of the prince for the Washington Post.
In February, a US intelligence report found that the crown prince had approved the capture or killing of Mr Khashoggi.
Cerberus senior executive Louis Bremer confirmed that his company’s role in the training of four members of the operation last year following questions from members of the US Congress as he was being considered for the role of a senior Pentagon official under former president Donald Trump’s administration.
But the politicians did not receive further answers as the relevant documents were not sent to Congress before his nomination was withdrawn.
In the documents viewed by the Times, Mr Bremer said that the State Department and other government agencies are responsible for vetting foreign forces trained on US soil.
The State Department initially granted a licence for the training in 2014, under the Obama administration, and continued during at least the first year of Mr Trump’s term.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that under the law the department cannot comment “on any of the licensed defence export licensing activity alleged in media reporting.”
There is no evidence that the US officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in a crackdown against dissent.
But the US continues its military partnership with repressive governments such as Saudi Arabia with little oversight.
And US private military contractors are increasingly looking to foreign clients for business as the nation begins to withdraw from deployments in the Middle East.
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