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Saudi crown prince approved operation to capture or kill Khashoggi: US intelligence

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of an operation to capture or kill dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in 2018, according to a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment released on Friday in a manner choreographed to limit damage to U.S.-Saudi ties

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of the crown prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Riyadh has denied any involvement by the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

“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 U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report posted on its website.

“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” it added.

READ: Biden, Saudi king talk ahead of expected Khashoggi report release

Earlier today it was reported that US President Joe Biden told Saudi King Salman he would work for bilateral ties “as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House said, ahead of the expected release of a sensitive U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The report is a declassified version of a top-secret assessment that sources say singles out the 85-year-old king’s son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia denies that the 35-year-old crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, approved the killing.

Biden and Salman discussed regional security and other issues and the new U.S. president told the Saudi monarch that “he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House said.

“The two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship,” the White House said in a statement. It did not mention the Khashoggi report, a test of the decades-long close ties between the allies as they try working together to confront growing Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Biden later told reporters the call, their first since he took office last month, was “good.”

A Saudi news agency statement also sounded a positive note. It said Salman congratulated Biden on assuming the U.S. presidency and that the pair stressed “the depth” of bilateral ties and the “importance of strengthening the partnership.”

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