The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the Washington Post reported Friday, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.
The Post said U.S. officials have expressed high confidence in the CIA assessment, which is the most definitive to date linking Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler to the killing, and complicates President Donald Trump’s efforts to preserve U.S. ties with one of the closest American allies in the region.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the accuracy of the report, but a source familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments told Reuters that U.S. government experts assess with confidence that the crown prince ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist from Saudi Arabia and Washington Post columnist went into a self-imposed exile to the United States one year ago, when the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman started his widespread crackdown on dissenters.
He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get papers for his marriage and never returned. Turkey maintained that the kingdom’s officials killed him inside the consulate which Saudi Arabia denied.
After three weeks of denial, the kingdom accepted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate but claimed the crown prince had no knowledge of the ‘rogue operation’ conducted by 15 high-profile Saudi officials who flew to Turkey the same day Khashoggi went to the consulate.
Shaalan said that de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered and handed over to an unidentified "local cooperator." The whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains are still unknown.