Saudi crown prince ordered murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, states report

Updated: Nov 18, 2018, 15:57 IST | Agencies | Washington

While the Saudi Embassy in Washington rejected the CIA assessment, the State Department declined to comment on the issue

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pic/AP
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Pic/AP

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday, complicating President Donald Trump's efforts to preserve ties with a key US ally.

The sources said the CIA had briefed other parts of the US government, including Congress, on its assessment, which contradicts Saudi government assertions that Prince Mohammed was not involved.

The CIA's finding, first reported by the Washington Post, is the most definitive US assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler directly to the killing. The Saudi Embassy in Washington rejected the CIA assessment. "The claims in this purported assessment is false," a spokeswoman for the embassy said in a statement. "We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations."

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, but added that Washington wanted to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The State Department declined to comment.

Trump and top officials of his administration have said Saudi Arabia must be held to account for any involvement in Khashoggi's death, but they have also stressed the importance of the alliance. US officials have said Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier, plays an important part in countering what they see as Iran's malign role in the region.

Arab-Turkish Media Association at funeral prayers for Khashoggi.
Arab-Turkish Media Association at funeral prayers for Khashoggi.

Death penalty
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 Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to cover up the murder.

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said on Thursday that he was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in the killing. The prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters the crown prince knew nothing of the operation.

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