United States intelligence report has revealed that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The declassified report dated February 11 released by the Biden administration says the prince approved a plan to either capture or kill the US-based Saudi exile, CNN reports.
It is the first time America has publicly named the crown prince, who denies ordering the death, though Central Intelligence Agency, as far as 2018, believed that the crown prince had ordered the murder.
Khashoggi was killed at Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on 2 October 2018 while visiting to obtain paperwork for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
He had been known for his criticism of the Saudi authorities.
Officials in the building originally claimed Khashoggi, who fled Saudi Arabia in 2017, had left the consulate. They were later forced into admitting that he was dead.
According to Saudi prosecutors, Khashoggi was forcibly restrained after a struggle and injected with a large amount of a drug, resulting in an overdose that led to his death. His body was then dismembered and handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the consulate, prosecutors said. The remains were never found.
The US intelligence report says;
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.
We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Slaman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.
The report also points to the crown prince’s ‘absolute control of the Kindom’s security and intelligence organizations,’ in a kingdom where his authority is already well established.
Although the four-page assessment provided no new facts to the crime, elements of which were captured on video and recordings that brought public attention to the killing, it contains several statements about where power lies and the direct connections to the crown prince.
The release of the report does not provide any information on looming political decisions – including whether to impose U.S. sanctions on a critical powerbroker of a strategic ally.
It however poses a challenge to US relations with a strategic ally, major arms purchaser, and oil power.
The crown prince has denied involvement in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote columns critical of MBS, as the crown prince as known.
Prince Mohammed later in 2019 said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government“.
Five men were given the death penalty for the journalist’s murder but had their sentences commuted to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.
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