Major General Ahmed al-Asiri, a high-ranking figure with close ties to the Saudi royal family, was sacked as Saudi Arabia‘s deputy intelligence chief on Friday, Saudi state media reported.
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A report in The New York Times on Thursday indicated Saudi rulers were considering blaming Asiri for the killing of Khashoggi in a bid to help to ease pressure on the crown prince.
Saudi state media also reported King Salman ordered the restructuring of the command of the general intelligence agency, under the supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS.
Asiri served as a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. He came under fire from human rights organisations after a May 2015 declaration that Houthi-held cities Saadah and Marran were military targets, putting civilians at risk.
Human rights groups and protesters continued to decry Asiri’s statements on Saudi war efforts in Yemen, which Human Rights Watch called “a clear violation of the laws of war” until he was removed from his position in 2017.
Asiri then served as an adviser to MBS, who promoted him to his intelligence position last year, and is considered to be one of MBS’ closest aides.
He is “a key figure within the royal household, a very senior figure”, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reported from Istanbul, following the announcement.
“He has been fingered by the royal household as being partly to blame for this.”
Asiri was not part of the 15-man “hit squad” named by Turkish media, who Turkish officials suspect were involved in the killing of Khashoggi.