Nov. 17 (UPI) — The CIA concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month in Istanbul, according to multiple news reports.
Citing unnamed individuals familiar with the CIA findings, The Washington Post first reported Friday that intelligence sources indicated the crown prince directed his brother, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Khalid bin Salman, to call Khashoggi. During the call, the ambassador reportedly told Khashoggi to visit the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was killed.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, Saudi citizen and U.S. resident, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a Saudi “hit team” that used a bone saw to dismember his body, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor has said. He visited the consulate to obtain paperwork needed for an upcoming marriage.
A senior U.S. official told CNN Friday the CIA’s determination is based on a recording that the Turkish government provided and other evidence, including U.S. intelligence.
Investigators believe the operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death would not have been possible without bin Salman’s knowledge given his government control, the senior U.S. official added.
President Donald Trump said Saturday he would be briefed on the CIA report later in the day.
“We will be talking with the CIA later and lots of others. I’ll be doing that while I’m on the plane,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing on a flight to California. “I’ll also be speaking with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”
Audio provided by a listening device the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate showed that Khashoggi was killed within minutes of entering the consulate, according to officials in multiple countries who have listened to it.
In the audio, a Saudi consul general expressed displeasure that Khashoggi’s body would have to be disposed of and the facility cleaned of any evidence, people familiar with the audio recording said.
The CIA assessment contradicts Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor who one day earlier exonerated the crown prince in the killing of Khashoggi.
A Saudi embassy spokeswoman denied the CIA’s conclusion that the crown prince was involved.
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals in Khashoggi’s death hours after prosecutors in Riyadh indicted nearly a dozen suspects.
Trump has said the Saudi government has tried to cover up the killing and “the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”
Still, Trump has been resistant to calls to reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia.