US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. official said. The Saudi government has denied the claim.

The conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing. The Trump administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.

The U.S. official familiar with the intelligence agencies’ conclusion was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke only condition of anonymity Friday. The conclusion 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.

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters travelling with him at a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea that he could not comment on “classified information.” He said Saturday “the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder.”

The United States will “follow the facts,” Pence said, while trying to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, was a columnist for the Post and often criticized the royal family. He was killed Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.

This past week, U.S. intelligence officials briefed members of the Senate and House intelligence committees and the Treasury Department announced economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the killing.

Among those targeted for sanctions were Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the consulate, and Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince’s entourage on trips abroad.

The sanctions freeze any assets the 17 may have in the U.S. and prohibit any Americans from doing business with them.

Also this past week, the top prosecutor in Saudi Arabia announced he will seek the death penalty against five men suspected in the killing. The prosecutor’s announcement sought to quiet the global outcry over Khashoggi’s death and distance the killers and their operation from the kingdom’s leadership, primarily the crown prince.

President Donald Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said “the coverup was one of the worst coverups in the history of coverups.”

But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.

The Post, citing unnamed sources, also reported that U.S. intelligence agencies reviewed a phone call that the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, had with Khashoggi. The newspaper said the prince’s brother, who is the current Saudi ambassador to the United States, told Khashoggi he would be safe in going to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents he needed to get married.

The newspaper said it was not known whether the ambassador knew Khashoggi would be killed. But it said he made the call at the direction the crown prince, and the call was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.

Fatimah Baeshen, a spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said that claim was false.

She said in a statement issued to The Associated Press that the ambassador met Khashoggi in person once in late September 2017. After that, they communicated via text messages, she said. The last text message the ambassador sent to Khashoggi was on Oct. 26, 2017, she said.

Baeshen said the ambassador did not discuss with Khashoggi “anything related to going to Turkey.”

“Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman has never had any phone conversations with him,” she said.

“You are welcome to check the phone records and cellphone content to corroborate this — in which case, you would have to request it from Turkish authorities,” Baeshen said, adding that Saudi prosecutors have checked the phone records numerous times to no avail.

The ambassador himself tweeted: “The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim.”

Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

UPDATED: Some states of local emergency suspended by ministerial order

Suspension applies to regional districts but not First Nations

A letter from Bella Coola doctors on COVID-19: ‘All our lives depend on your actions now’

“None of us are invincible; we can all get it and spread it without even knowing.”

COVID-19: Bella Coola RCMP close detachment front door access

The public is being asked to call 250 799 5363 for assistance

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read