The New York Times reports that the training was provided by Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, and approved by the State Department.

In this November 16, 2018 file photo, people attend a symbolic funeral prayer for Jamal Khashoggi at the Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
In this November 16, 2018 file photo, people attend a symbolic funeral prayer for Jamal Khashoggi at the Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters)

Four Saudis who were involved in the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the US in 2017 under a contract approved by the State Department.

The New York Times reported that the training was provided by Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, and was defensive in nature and devised to protect Saudi leaders, the report said.

Cerberus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In response to the report, State Department spokesman Ned Price said under the law 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."

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. 

READ MORE: Justice remains elusive two years after Khashoggi's brutal murder

How US intertwined with horrific human rights abuses?

A US intelligence report in February said the crown prince had approved an operation to capture or kill the journalist.

The private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management says the training, including “safe marksmanship” and “countering an attack”, was devised to better protect Saudi leaders, and it also included work in surveillance and close-quarters battle.

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 the report.

But the lawmakers never received the answers because the Trump administration does not appear to have sent them to Congress before withdrawing Bremer’s nomination, according to the report, which said Bremer provided it with the document.

Bremer said the US State Department and other government agencies are responsible for vetting foreign forces trained on US soil, it said.

The report said there was no evidence that the US officials who approved the training or Tier 1 Group executives knew that the Saudis were involved in the crackdown inside Saudi Arabia. 

"But the fact that the government approved high-level military training for operatives who went on to carry out the grisly killing of a journalist shows how intensely intertwined the United States has become with an autocratic nation even as its agents carried out horrific human rights abuses," it added.

READ MORE: US intel: Saudi crown prince approved op to capture or kill Khashoggi

Source: TRTWorld and agencies