US implicates Saudi crown prince in murder of journalist


WASHINGTON (AP) – The crown prince of Saudi Arabia likely approved the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a recently declassified US intelligence report released Friday. The finding could increase pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that sparked widespread outrage in the US and abroad.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s public impeachment amounted to an extraordinary reprimand and likely set the tone for the new administration’s relationship with a country that President Joe Biden has criticized but is also seen by the White House in some contexts as a strategic partner. .

The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, a critic of his authoritarian consolidation of power, was based on what intelligence officials know about his role in decision-making within the kingdom, as well as the participation of one of your keys. advisers, Saud al-Qahtani, and members of his protective detachment, according to the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Officials also took into account the prince’s past support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, according to the report.

As Democrats in Congress clamored for aggressive action, the State Department responded by announcing visa restrictions for 76 Saudi individuals involved in threatening dissidents abroad.

“As a matter of security for everyone within our borders, perpetrators who target perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be allowed to reach US soil,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The declassified document was released a day after a later than usual courtesy call from Biden to Saudi King Salman, although a summary of the conversation at the White House did not mention the murder and said instead that the men had discussed the association. long-standing of countries. . The kingdom’s state Saudi Press Agency also did not mention Khashoggi’s assassination in its report on the call, instead focusing on regional issues such as Iran and the ongoing war in Yemen.

The softer tone of the call contrasted with Biden’s promise as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia “an outcast” for the assassination.

Once in office, Biden has said that he will maintain whatever scale of relations with Saudi Arabia require the interests of the United States. He also ordered an end to US support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and said he would stop the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia. He has given few details about what weapons and support he meant.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that the administration has made it clear that it will “recalibrate our relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Democrats pushed for strong action.

Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Biden administration to ensure that the report creates “serious repercussions against all responsible parties it has identified, and also to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. “. And Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Oregon Democratic and Intelligence Committee, called for consequences for the prince, such as sanctions, as well as for the Saudi kingdom as a whole.

Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to collect the necessary documents for his wedding. Once inside, he was killed by more than a dozen Saudi intelligence and security officials and others who had gathered before his arrival. Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his suspected killers in Istanbul in the hours leading up to his murder.

A Turkish bug planted in the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensic expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body an hour after he entered the building. The whereabouts of his remains are unknown.

The prince said in 2019 that he took “full responsibility” for the killing, as it occurred under his command, but denied ordering it. Saudi officials have said that Khashoggi’s assassination was the work of rogue Saudi intelligence and security officials. Saudi Arabian courts announced last year that they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison for Khashoggi’s murder. They were not identified.

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Associated Press reporters Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City and Aamer Madhani in Chicago contributed to this report.

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