Vigil for Jamal Khashoggi
Vigil for Jamal KhashoggiReuters

Four members of the Saudi hit squad that killed US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 received paramilitary training in the United States that had been approved by the State Department, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Four of those operatives, according to the report, had received training from a private American security group, Tier 1 Group, a move first authorized by the administration of former president Barack Obama in 2014.

That training continued at least until the start of Donald Trump's presidency, the newspaper added.

The New York Times cited a document provided to the Trump administration by a top official from the parent company of Tier 1 Group, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, who had applied for a senior post at the Pentagon.

In his written testimony, Louis Bremer confirmed that Tier 1 Group did provide training to the Saudi agents, but insisted that the training was "protective in nature" and "unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts."

The US State Department, contacted by AFP, said it could not comment on this information but called for the "responsible use...of American military equipment and training".

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, after initially denying Turkish claims that he was murdered.

An intelligence report released in February by the Biden administration said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s murder.

Khashoggi’s murder resulted in tensions between lawmakers and the White House. Trump had reaffirmed his support for Saudi Arabia, despite the murder of Khashoggi, insisting the US-Saudi Arabian alliance is beneficial not only for American interests, but also for those of Israel.

Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, had called for a strong US response to Khashoggi's murder.