Washington: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud sent at least 11 messages to his closest advisor who was charged with overseeing journalist Jamal Khashoggi‘s murder, in the hours leading up to the killing, the Wall Street Journal said on Saturday quoting a CIA assessment. The revelation comes a few days after the newspaper reported that the CIA had concluded Prince Mohammed had likely personally ordered the killing.
The electronic messages were said to have been sent by Prince Mohammed to Saud al-Qahtani, who supervised the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi, the paper said. The contents of the messages weren’t known, it added, citing the assessment, which also did not reveal the format of electronic communication.
The Crown Prince also told associates in August last year that if he failed to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements” — a communication the Central Intelligence Agency said “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi, a trenchant critic of the crown prince who relocated to Virginia and wrote op-eds for the Washington Post, was killed by Saudi operatives inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on October 2, triggering global condemnation.
After initially denying the murder, Saudi Arabia acknowledged some liability but blamed his death on a “rogue” operation.
President Donald Trump, who has been accused of covering for the Saudi leadership, appeared to challenge that assessment about the prince, saying “maybe he did, maybe he didn’t”.
On Wednesday, United States Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo said that there was no report on the direct involvement of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of former Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi,” Al Jazeera quoted Pompeo as saying.
The statement came after Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate that weakening of ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the killing would adversely affect the national security of America.
Earlier in November, the Wall Street Journal said that excerpts of the assessment it had not previously reported state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death” — but added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order”.
(Inputs from PTI)