The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the Saudi government’s denials that the de facto ruler was involved, according to a senior US official.
The official told CNN on Friday the conclusion was based on a recording provided by the Turkish government and other evidence, including American intelligence.
Investigators also believed that an operation such as the one that ended in Khashoggi’s death would not have happened without Salman’s knowledge given his control of the government, the official said.
Reacting to the development, a Saudi Embassy spokeswoman said that “the claims in this purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations”.
The Central Intelligence Agency is yet to make an official announcement.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and also former Saudi royal insider who became a critic of the country’s government, went missing on October 2 after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage.
The Saudi government offered changing explanations for Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Included in the US intelligence analysed by the CIA was a phone call the Crown Prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman made to Khashoggi, encouraging the journalist to make the trip to the consulate to get the documents, according to The Washington Post.
Sources told the Post that Khalid made the call at his brother’s command.
Khalid denied the Post’s reporting, saying on Twitter that he had never spoken to Khashoggi by phone.
“I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim,” Khalid said on Friday.
He said the last contact he’d had with Khashoggi was via text in October 2017.
Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told the Post that Khalid, who is the Saudi ambassador to the US, and Khashoggi never discussed “anything related to going to Turkey”.
The CIA also examined an audio recording from inside the Saudi consulate provided by Turkey and a phone call placed from inside the consulate after Khashoggi was killed.
The location of Khashoggi’s remains remain unknown.
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Thursday imposed penalties on 17 individuals over their alleged roles in the killing of Khashoggi, CNN said.
Earlier Thursday, the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s Office said 11 people had been charged for their involvement, adding that five were facing capital punishment for being directly involved in “ordering and executing the crime”.