Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has been implicated in a new classified U.S. intelligence report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The report finds that Muhammad bin Salman was responsible, saying he approved the operation to capture or kill Mr Khashoggi.
The findings could escalate pressure on the Biden administration in the U.S. to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for a murder that drew bipartisan and international outrage.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the reports executive summary states.
The assessment released Friday by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence was based on intelligence on Mr Salman’s “control of decision-making” in the Kingdom.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the report said.
It added that the 15-person Saudi team that arrived in Istanbul in October 2018 when Mr Khashoggi was killed included members associated with the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs (CSMARC) at the Royal Court, led by Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to the prince.
The team also included “seven members of Muhammad bin Salman’s elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force.”
The crown prince viewed Mr Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him, the report added
“Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him,” the report concluded.
Saudi Arabia had repeatedly denied that the crown prince authorised the murder of Mr Khashoggi who was resident in the U.S. and was a columnist for the Washington Post.
Mr Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Turkey. His body was never found and is believed to have been dismembered and dumped in a secret place by the Saudi killer squad.
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