(Aljazeera)The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, US media reported on Friday. This is a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.
According to the Washington Post, who first reported the CIA conclusion, US officials expressed high confidence in the CIA assessment, which is the most definitive to date linking bin Salman to the killing and complicates President Donald Trump’s efforts to preserve ties with one of the closest US allies in the region.
Both the Washington Post and the Associated Press cited unnamed officials familiar with the CIA conclusion.
US Vice President Mike Pence has said the US will hold the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi to account, following reports in US media that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.
“The United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” Pence said on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.
The vice president described the murder of the Saudi journalist as an “atrocity” and an “affront to a free and independent press” but declined to comment on classified information.
“We are going to follow the facts,” said Pence, adding that the US wanted to preserve a “strong and historic partnership with Saudi Arabia.”
US President Donald Trump was briefed on Khashoggi’s murder after the CIA assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, ordered the killing, the White House has said.
Trump discussed the CIA assessment by phone with the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, yesterday.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Saturday, Trump had reiterated that he had been told MBS had not played a role in the journalist’s death.
“We haven’t been briefed yet,” Trump said.
Trump and top administration officials have said Saudi Arabia should be held to account for any involvement in Khashoggi’s death and have imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis for their role in the killing.
But they have also stressed the importance of Washington’s ties with Riyadh, even while US lawmakers have called on the administration to punish Saudi Arabia over the murder.
US has made no ‘final conclusion’ on Khashoggi killing: State Department
The United States government has not reached a final conclusion over Khashoggi’s killing, the US State Department has said.
“Recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Saturday.
“There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr Khashoggi,” Nauert said in her statement.
“The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts. In the meantime, we will continue to consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
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