Who is Ahmed al-Asiri, the sacked Saudi intelligence official?

Major General Ahmed Al-Asiri was sacked as Saudi Arabia‘s deputy intelligence chief on Friday, Saudi state media reported.

The announcement came as the kingdom’s state media said the missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, citing an official Saudi investigation.

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 (MBS.)

Asiri served as an adviser to bin Salman, 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.

Asiri is well known to journalists who cover the Middle East, from his previous role as spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition military campaign in Yemen.

A report in The New York Times on Thursday indicated the Saudi rulers were considering blaming Asiri for the killing of Khashoggi, noting it would provide a plausible explanation for the killing and help to deflect blame from the Saudi crown prince.

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