Jamal Khashoggi. Photo: AP
Saudi Arabia admitted journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul, according to the kingdom's state media.
The official SPA press agency said on Saturday that preliminary results of investigations showed the dissident writer died after a fight broke out inside the building.
"An argument erupted between him [Khashoggi] and others whom he met in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul leading to a fist fight which led to his death," SPA reported.
"The investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested," a statement from the Saudi public prosecutor said, adding royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri were fired from their positions.
It remains unclear where Khashoggi's body is following his killing.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who wrote critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's rise to power, went missing on October 2 after entering the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage.
Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security, said she was "surprised" by the Saudis' story about Khashoggi's death.
"They knew they had to come up with a story, and this is what they think is the best story for their purposes. It's at the very least insufficient, but it's also insulting. It's 'here's our story and we're sticking to it'."
Greenberg said Saudi King Salman could have reprimanded and removed his son from power for the killing.
"This is a brutal, horrifying, pointed assassination of a journalist who had strong ties to the West and was a resident of the United States. Each one of those is a line that you wouldn't have expected the king to allow to be crossed," Greenberg told Al Jazeera.
Saudi officials previously denied the writer had been killed inside the diplomatic facility, insisting Khashoggi had left the building before vanishing.