US intelligence CIA officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Second audio recording of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder exists: Turkey
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul embassy. Picture: AP
The Saudi government has denied the claim, which directly contradicts the conclusions of a Saudi prosecutor which exonerated the prince of involvement in the brutal murder.
However, the CIA’s conclusion by will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close US ally for the killing. The Trump administration this week sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but politicians have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
The US official familiar with the intelligence agencies’ conclusion was unauthorised to speak publicly about it and spoke on condition of anonymity. It was first reported by The Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat has said the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with the killing.
The Trump White House is yet to comment on the assessment.
The Washington Post, which broke the story, said the CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate.
The CIA scrubbed multiple intelligence sources, the Post said, among them a phone call between the prince’s brother — the Saudi ambassador to the United States — and Khashoggi.
The ambassador reportedly told the late journalist that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul and get the papers he needed.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.
In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor yesterday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul “by means of persuasion” — but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a “rogue” operation.
RECORDING REVEALS PLOT
Meanwhile, a new audio recording of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul embassy has emerged, Turkish media reports.
According to Hurriyet Daily reporter Abdulkadir Selvi, the 15-minute tape contradicts Saudi Arabia’s claim that the journalist died in a botched attempt to forcibly return him to Saudi Arabian soil.
In the recording, which was made 15 minutes before the Washington Post reporter arrived at the embassy, the Saudi officials can be heard “[discussing] how to execute Khashoggi. They are reviewing their plan, which was previously prepared, and reminding themselves the duties of each member,” according to columnist Selvi.
Other factors that appear to discredit Saudi Arabia’s claim the murder was premeditated include the presence in the room of a forensics official with experience in dismembering bodies, and a body double to fake Khashoggi’s exit from the embassy.
Dozens of people paid homage to Khashoggi in a symbolic funeral on Friday in Istanbul, where the 59-year-old was killed last month.
In the absence of a body, the crowd gathered in front of an empty place traditionally reserved for the coffin at Fatih mosque, AFP journalists reported.
“There is also evidence from the period after the killing. Turkey has the international phone calls made by the 15-member Saudi hit squad,” Selvi added.
On the first tape, also confirmed by Selvi, the sound of Khashoggi’s “desperate attempts to survive” could be heard as he was strangled for seven to eight minutes, the reporter claimed.
Supporters from the newly-formed Jamal Khashoggi Friends Association also attended.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2.
Turkish officials say he was strangled and his body dismembered.
“We decided to hold the prayers as we are convinced that his body will never be found,” Fatih Oke, executive director of the Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM) of which Khashoggi was a member, told AFP.
The ceremony which took place in the rain, “is a message delivered to the world to say that the murder will not go unpunished and that justice will be served,” said Ibrahim Pekdemir, an Istanbul resident who attended.
Saudi prosecutors on Thursday announced indictments against 11 people and said a total of 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.
But they exonerated the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement in the murder.
Yasin Aktay, a close friend of Khashoggi and adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, strongly criticised the Saudi version of events.
“They want us to believe that the killers themselves made the decision to assassinate Jamal Khashoggi, we do not believe in this story,” he said after the prayer.
“We will continue to ask who are the true contractors” of the murder.
Turkey has insisted it was a premeditated killing.
Originally published as CIA’s Saudi Arabia bombshell