- REUTERS/Amir Levy
- The CIA has determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, according to a report from The Washington Post.
- A phone call from the Saudi ambassador to the United States to Khashoggi, audio recordings from Turkish officials, and the fact that some members of the 15-person team who carried out the operation have been on Mohammed’s security team led to the CIA’s conclusion, The Post says.
- The Saudi government has repeatedly changed its story on how Khashoggi died. This week, the Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 people and sentenced five to death following its investigation.
- President Donald Trump has been slow to say whether he believes Mohammed bin Salman is behind the killing.
The CIA has determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, 59, according to reports from multiple news agencies. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied that the crown prince had a role in Khashoggi’s death.
Khashoggi, who was killed last month in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to The Washington Post and had written editorials critical of the crown prince. He had gone to the consulate to pick up documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, 36.
The CIA’s conclusion was based on several pieces of intelligence. The Washington Post, which broke the story, said that information includes a call from Saudi ambassador Khalid bin Salman, Mohammed’s brother, to Khashoggi. During the phone call, Khalid bin Salman encouraged Khashoggi to go to the consulate in Istanbul. Other pieces of information supporting the CIA’s conclusion are audio recordings from Turkish officials and the fact that several people in the 15-person team that flew to Turkey had served on Mohammed’s security team, according to the report.
An unnamed official told The Wall Street Journal that there was no “smoking gun” and that the CIA’s assessment was based on “an understanding of how Saudi Arabia works.”
The official also told The Journal “this would not and could not have happened” without the crown prince being involved.
The call from Khalid bin Salman to Khashoggi was made “at his brother’s direction,” according to The Post, though it is unclear if Khalid bin Salman knew that the journalist would be killed. A spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy told The Post that Khalid bin Salman and Khashoggi did not discuss Turkey and asserted that the CIA’s “purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations.”
Their full statement was tweeted out on Friday:
Unfortunately the @washingtonpost did not print our full response. This is a serious accusation and should not be left to anonymous sources. Our full response was the following: pic.twitter.com/vo1JcNAswx
— Khalid bin Salman خالد بن سلمان (@kbsalsaud) November 17, 2018
The audio recordings from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul have been given to multiple international governments and were heard by CIA director Gina Haspel. They reveal that Khashoggi was killed within “moments” of arriving at the consulate.
The Saudi government has repeatedly changed its story on Khashoggi’s death. On Thursday, the Saudi public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb released his findings. A spokesman for the prosecutor, Shaalan al-Shaalan, said 11 people had been indicted and five face the death penalty; their names were not released.
The prosecutor’s office said an official at the head of a mission to persuade Khashoggi to come to Saudi Arabia ordered the killing. Instead of bringing the journalist back, he was given a lethal injection, his body was dismembered, and the body (which has still not been recovered) was handed over to a “local collaborator.”
On Thursday, US officials also announced sanctions against 17 Saudi officials.
“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions.”
President Donald Trump has been slow to connect the crown prince with the killing.