The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. officials.
The assessment by the CIA, first reported by The Washington Post Friday, contradicts that of Saudi Arabia, whose top prosecutor one day earlier exonerated the crown prince in the killing.
U.S. officials say the CIA concluded that 15 Saudi agents flew in a Saudi government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate.
Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post and was a critic of the Saudi crown prince, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October while he was trying to get documents for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.
Saudi ambassador denies call
The Post said the CIA based its conclusion on multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, who is also the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.
In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents for his marriage. The paper said it was not known whether Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed.
Khalid denied he had spoken with Khashoggi in a tweet Friday.
“The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,’’ he said.
Saudi officials say the killing of Khashoggi was accidental and say that officials were trying to force Khashoggi to return to the kingdom.
Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressing Saudi Arabia to allow those responsible to be tried in Turkey.
The Trump administration this week sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing. However, some U.S. lawmakers have called on the White House to do more, including reducing the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
President Donald Trump has said the Saudi government has tried to cover up the killing and has said “the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”
However, Trump has resisted calls to reduce arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president has sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East as well as to increase arms trade deals between Washington and Riyadh.