CIA intercepts strongly link Saudi prince to Khashoggi killers: Report
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to Saud al-Qahtani, his closest adviser who oversaw the team that killed Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist's death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment seen by the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. newspaper reported on Dec. 1 that the Saudi prince had told his associates in August 2017 that if his efforts to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia were unsuccessful, "we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements," according to the assessment.
The document said the communication "seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi."
The messages appear to reveal the first evidence of the crown prince's involvement in the operation on the actual day of the killing and of the crown prince sending messages as opposed to being told of events by an aide.
The WSJ said it had seen excerpts of the CIA's assessment, which cite electronic intercepts and other clandestine information.
Qahtani used the Centre for Studies and Media Affairs at the Royal Court (CSMARC), the court's media department, to organise the murder, according to the CIA document.
"We assess it is highly unlikely this team of operators ... carried out the operation without Mohammed bin Salman's authorisation," the document says.
The assessment adds that Qahtani "explicitly requested the crown prince's permission when he pursued other sensitive operations in 2015, which reflects the crown prince's command and control expectations."
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist working for The Washington Post, was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After weeks of saying he had left the consulate alive, the Saudi administration later admitted he was killed there, blaming his death on a group of rogue Saudi operatives.
While the whereabouts of Khashoggi's body remains unknown, French and British leaders said they conveyed "strong messages" to the Saudi prince regarding the killing on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina on Nov. 30.