CIA concludes Khashoggi killing ordered by Saudi crown prince: Report

CIA concludes Khashoggi killing ordered by Saudi crown prince: Report

ISTANBUL

People holding pictures of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attend a symbolic funeral prayer for Khashoggi at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey on Nov. 16, 2018. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the CIA concluded, according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper cited four anonymous sources.

"The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is the most definitive to date linking Mohammed [bin Salman] to the operation and complicates the Trump administration's efforts to preserve its relationship with a close ally," the Post wrote.

According to the article, the CIA reached its conclusion by examining multiple intelligence sources, including a telephone call between the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, with Khashoggi.

Anonymous sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Khalid told Khashoggi he should go to Saudi's Istanbul Consulate for documents he needed to get married, assuring him it would be safe.

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"It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence," the Post wrote.

Fatimah Baeshen -- spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington -- said Khalid and Khashoggi did not discuss "anything related to going to Turkey," stating the CIA’s "purported assessment are false."

Khashoggi, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, was killed on Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

After weeks of denying any involvement in the crime, Saudi Arabia later admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate but claimed the Saudi royal family had no prior knowledge of any plot to murder the journalist.

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"The CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s [bin Salman] role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom," the newspaper wrote.

"The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved," the Post said, citing an anonymous source.

Evidence shown to U.S. president

According to the article, U.S. President Donald Trump "resisted pinning the blame for the killing" on the Saudi prince.

"Privately, aides said, Trump has been shown evidence of the prince’s involvement but remains skeptical that Mohammed ordered the killing," according to The Post.

It added that Trump asked CIA and State Department officials where the body of the Saudi journalist is “and has grown frustrated that they have not been able to provide an answer."

The CIA does not know where the body is located, according to the sources.

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The article also said the CIA received a copy of an audio from Turkish authorities of the Saudi Consulate from the day Khashoggi’s killing, stating the CIA Director Gina Haspel listened to it.

A call from inside the consulate after the killing of the Saudi journalist of Maher Mutreb -- who is an alleged member of the Saudi hit team -- was also examined by the CIA.

The call was between Mutreb and Saud al-Qahtani -- who was the top aid of the crown prince -- to inform him the operation was complete, said the article.

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"Trump has told senior White House officials that he wants Mohammed to remain in power because Saudi Arabia helps to check Iran, which the administration considers its top security challenge in the Middle East," the Post said, adding that Trump "said that he does not want the controversy over Khashoggi’s death to impede oil production by the kingdom."

Questioning the reason behind the killing of Khashoggi, the article said the CIA developed a theory that the Saudi crown prince "believed Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist who was too sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to people familiar with the assessment."

"We haven’t been briefed yet. The CIA is going to be speaking to me today," Trump told reporters on Nov. 17 before leaving the White House for a visit to California. "As of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We’re going to have to find out what they have to say."

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