U.S.A – (warsoor) – The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, US media reported on Friday, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.
According to the Washington Post, who first reported the CIA conclusion, US officials expressed high confidence in the CIA assessment, which is the most definitive to date linking MBS to the killing and complicates President Donald Trump‘s efforts to preserve ties with one of the closest US allies in the region.
Both the Washington Post and the Associated Press cited unnamed officials familiar with the CIA conclusion.
The accuracy of the reports could not be immediately verified.
US Vice President Mike Pence, on a visit to Papua New Guinea, told reporters travelling with him that he could not comment on classified information.
“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” he said.
“We are going to follow the facts,” the vice president said, also adding that the US wanted to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment.
Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 when he went there to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage.
A critic of the Saudi government, Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him to return home.
Saudi Arabia initially rejected its officials were behind the killing, but as Turkish authorities continued to leak evidence of high-level involvement, Riyadh eventually admitted its agents carried out the killing with a series of contradictory explanations.
Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to extradite those responsible to stand trial. An adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to cover up the murder.
His remarks came after Shaalan al-Shaalan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, said he was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in Khashoggi’s killing. Al-Shaalan told reporters the Saudi crown prince knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered and removed from the consulate.
‘Assurances given to Khashoggi’
In Friday’s report, the Washington Post, citing people familiar with the matter, said the CIA reached its conclusions after examining multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US, had with Khashoggi.
Khalid told Khashoggi he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so, the Post said.
The newspaper, citing individuals familiar with the call, said it was not clear if Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed but that he made the call at his brother’s direction.
Ambassador Khalid bin Salman said in a Twitter post on Friday the last contact he had with Khashoggi was via text on October 26, 2017, nearly a year before the journalist’s death.
“I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim,” he tweeted.
The ambassador posted a second tweet, which he said included the embassy’s full response to the Washington Post report.
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