The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month, according to U.S. media reports.
The Washington Post reported that the CIA came to that conclusion after reviewing an array of evidence, including a taped phone call in which the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Khaled bin Salman — younger brother of the crown prince — told Khashoggi to go to the Saudi consulate to pick up his wedding documents and assured him that he would be safe.
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According to the Post, Khaled spoke to Khashoggi at the crown prince’s behest, although it wasn’t clear if he knew Khashoggi was going to be killed. The call was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
The Wall Street Journal later cited a U.S. official saying Khashoggi’s killing “would not and could not have happened” without Prince Mohammed’s approval, and that the CIA’s conclusions on the Khashoggi killing were based on a thorough understanding of how Saudi Arabia operates.
Intelligence officials briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill about their analysis, the New York Times reported.
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Khaled took to Twitter on Friday evening to deny that he ever told Khashoggi to go to the Saudi consulate. He claimed that his last contact with Khashoggi was in October 2017.
“I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,” Khaled tweeted.
Reuters and the Associated Press each cited officials familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments confirming the CIA’s position that Khashoggi’s killing did not and could not have happened without the involvement of Prince Mohamed.
According to the Reuters, the CIA has already briefed other U.S. government departments on its assessment.
The CIA’s conclusion contradicts the Saudi government’s assertions that its crown prince was not involved in the slaying of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.
On Thursday, the Saudi public prosecutor said it would seek the death penalty for five suspects in the murder. Two of them are senior officials with close ties to Prince Mohammed.
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The Trump administration has also sanctioned several individuals over their alleged links to the killing.
The White House declined to comment on the Post report, saying it was an intelligence matter. The State Department also declined to comment.
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.
— With files from Reuters