The report released by the office of the US director of national intelligence has found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The report released by the Biden administration says the Saudi prince approved a plan to either “capture or kill” Jamal Khashoggi, who was based in the US.
It is the first time the US has publicly named the crown prince, who denies ordering the murder.
Meanwhile, the US announced sanctions on dozens of Saudis but not the prince himself.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Washington Post journalist had once been an adviser to the Saudi government and close to the royal family but he fell out of favor and went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017.
From there, Jamal Khashoggi wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticized the policies of Prince Mohammed.
The report says: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and is considered to be the effective ruler of the kingdom.
The intelligence report lists three reasons for believing that the Saudi prince must have approved the operation:
his control of decision-making in the kingdom since 2017
the direct involvement in the operation of one of his advisers as well as members of his protective detail
his “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad”
The report goes on to name individuals allegedly complicit in, or responsible for, Jamal Khashoggi’s death. But it says “we do not know how far in advance” those involved planned to harm him.
Saudi authorities have blamed the killing on a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return the journalist to the kingdom, and a Saudi court tried and sentenced five individuals to 20 years in prison last September, after initially sentencing them to death.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused the Saudi state of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Jamal Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
Shortly after the report was released, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the travel restrictions, dubbed the “Khashoggi Ban”.
Those targeted are “believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities”, he said.
“Perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” Antony Blinken warned.
In addition, the treasury department sanctioned some of those around Prince Mohammed: one of his close aides, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Asiri, as well as his personal protective force, which was involved in the killing.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is a key American ally in the Middle East.
President Joe Biden is expected to take a firmer line than his predecessor Donald Trump on human rights and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia.
In a phone call on February 25 with King Salman, President Biden “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law”, the White House said.
According to sources quoted by Reuters, the Biden administration is also considering the cancelation of arms deals with Saudi Arabia that pose human rights concerns as well as the limiting of future military sales to “defensive” weapons.
The US authorities are set to release a report of an investigation into the gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi which is widely expected to implicate the kingdom’s powerful crown prince.
President Joe Biden has read the report and is due to speak to King Salman.
The president wants to “recalibrate” ties with Saudi Arabia, which became closer under President Donald Trump.
Jamal Khashoggi’s body was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bon Salman denies involvement.
The Washington Post journalist, known for his criticism of Saudi authorities, went to the consulate in October 2018 in order to obtain papers allowing him to get married.
According to Saudi authorities, Jamal Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment was the result of a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return him to the kingdom.
Five individuals were given death sentences for the murder by a Saudi court but these were commuted to 20 years in prison in September 2020.
The report, which is expected to be released later on February 25, will say that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved “and likely ordered” Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, four US officials told Reuters.
They said the CIA was the main contributor to the report.
The Saudi public prosecution and Prince Mohammed insist he did not have any knowledge of the murder but in 2019 he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.
According to that reported assessment, there was no “smoking gun” but US officials thought such an operation would have required the prince’s approval.
The Washington Post said at the time that the CIA assessment had been based partly on a phone call made by the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was the then Saudi ambassador to the US.
Prince Khalid, who is now deputy defense minister, allegedly called Jamal Khashoggi at the direction of his brother and gave him assurances that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul. Prince Khalid has denied any communication with the journalist.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused Saudi Arabia of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Jamal Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
The publication of the report is part of President Biden’s policy to realign ties with long-term ally Saudi Arabia and take a much tougher stance than his predecessor President Trump on certain Saudi positions.
The Trump administration had previously rejected a legal requirement to release a declassified version of the report, focusing instead on improved co-operation with the Saudis.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on February 24 that President Biden would communicate with King Salman, and not directly with the crown prince, who is his son and is considered the de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia.
She said President Biden was due to speak to the 85-year-old king for the first time since taking office “soon”, without giving a specific time for the call.
Jen Psaki told reporters: “We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
The trial of 20 Saudi nationals accused of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has begun in absentia in Turkey.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Those being tried include two former top aides to Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Jamal Khashoggi was a vocal critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete.
The trial in Istanbul follows an international outcry over the murder, which tarnished the prince’s reputation.
Turkish prosecutors accuse the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and the royal court’s media adviser Saud al-Qahtani of having led the operation and instructed a Saudi hit team.
The other 18 defendants are accused of having suffocated Jamal Khashoggi, whose remains have not been found. Turkish officials say his body was dismembered and removed to an unknown site.
Jamal Khashoggi, who was resident in the US, had entered the consulate seeking papers for his impending wedding.
The journalist’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, who has directly linked the crown prince to the killing, AFP news agency reports.
The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.
In December 2019, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.
A senior aide to the crown prince, Saud al-Qahtani, was sacked and
investigated over the killing but not charged “due to insufficient
evidence”, the public prosecution said. Former Deputy Intelligence Chief
Ahmad Asiri was put on trial but acquitted on the same grounds.
The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court
“falls short of the expectations of Turkey and the international community
for the clarification of all aspects of this murder and the serving of
Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, called the Saudi announcement
The publisher of the Washington Post,
for whom Jamal Khashoggi wrote columns, said: “The complete lack of transparency and the Saudi government’s
refusal to co-operate with independent investigators suggests that this was
merely a sham trial.”
However, Jamal Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, tweeted: “We affirm our confidence in the Saudi
judiciary at all levels, that it has been fair to us and that justice has been
Jamal Khashoggi, who went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2, 2018, to obtain papers he needed to marry Hatice Cengiz.
US intelligence officials have reportedly said such an operation would have
needed the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
However, Saudi officials insist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by a
“rogue” team of Saudi agents not acting on the prince’s orders.
An administration statement said President Trump “maintains his
discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when
However, Democratic senators told the New
York Times President Trump was in breach of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which
requires a response within 120 days to requests from Senate committee leaders.
That deadline passed on February 8.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has written to Senate leaders describing actions
taken against individuals.
However, the documents do not indicate who was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s
death, as demanded by the senators.
The US has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Saud
al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the crown prince who, it alleged, was
“part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Jamal
However, President Trump has faced criticism from senators for failing to condemn the Saudi crown prince directly.
Adel al-Jubeir criticised the way Turkey has shared information with Saudi Arabia.
He said: “The Turkish authorities have not been as forthcoming as we believe they should have been.
“We have asked our friends in Turkey to provide us with evidence that we can use in a court of law. We have not received it in the manner that it should have been received.”
President Erdogan says the order to kill Jamal Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government but insists he does not want to damage the Saudi royal family.
The Saudi government denies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing.
The Saudi public prosecutor has said Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate as a result of a “rogue operation” on the orders of an intelligence officer.
Jamal Khashoggi was given a lethal injection after a struggle. The journalist’s body was then dismembered inside the consulate in Istanbul and the body parts were handed over to a local”collaborator” outside the grounds, the prosecutor said.
The CIA did not conclude that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Donald Trump has revealed.
Jamal Khashoggi was killed on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
However, officials told media such an operation would have needed the crown prince’s approval and Saudi Arabia maintains it was a “rogue operation”.
Asked about the CIA’s reported evaluation by reporters in Florida, President Trump said: “They didn’t conclude.”
The president’s comments on November 21 came as the Saudi crown prince began a regional tour of the Middle East, starting with the United Arab Emirates – his first official trip abroad since Jamal Khashoggi was killed.
Prince Mohammed is also expected to participate in a G20 meeting of world leaders in Buenos Aires at the end of the month that will be attended by leaders from the US, Turkey and a number of European countries.
Meanwhile, France has announced that it is imposing sanctions on 18 Saudi nationals – the same individuals targeted with sanctions by the US, UK and Germany – allegedly linked to the Khashoggi murder.
Their list of individuals does not include Prince Mohammed, a spokesperson for the French ministry of foreign affairs said.
President Trump told reporters in Florida: “They have feelings certain ways. I have the report, they have not concluded, I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude the crown prince did it.”
He added: “But whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies it, the king, vehemently.”
However, earlier this week, President Trump released a statement suggesting that Prince Mohammed “could very well” have known about the incident.
The president’s statement said: “[It] could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
He has repeatedly stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia to the US following the killing, calling Saudi Arabia a “steadfast partner” that has agreed to invest “a record amount of money” in the US.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that President Trump had confidence in the CIA following conversations with Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the Khashoggi murder.
Sources quoted in the US media at the time stressed that there was no single piece of evidence linking the crown prince directly to the murder, but officials believe the killing would have required his endorsement.
Separately, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday that Director Haspel told Turkish officials last month that the CIA had a recording in which the crown prince gave instructions to “silence” Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible.
When asked about the claims by reporters, President Trump said: “I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them.”
Saudi Arabia says claims that the crown prince may have ordered the Khashoggi killing are false and maintains that he knew nothing about it.
As a prominent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi covered major stories including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden for various Saudi news organizations.
For decades, Jamal Khashoggi was close to the Saudi royal family and also served as an adviser to the government.
However, he fell out of favor and went into self-imposed exile in the US last year. From there, Jamal Khashoggi wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticized the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In his first column for the Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi said he feared being arrested in an apparent crackdown on dissent overseen by the prince since.
In his last column, Jamal Khashoggi criticized Saudi involvement in the Yemen conflict.
Turkey also insists the order to the Saudi dissident came from the highest levels.
The Washington Post, which Jamal Khashoggi worked for, says the CIA assessment was based partly on a phone call made by the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US.
Prince Khalid allegedly called Jamal Khashoggi at the direction of his brother and gave him assurances that he would be safe to go to the consulate.
However, Prince Khalid, now back in Saudi Arabia, tweeted that he had not been in contact with Jamal Khashoggi for nearly a year.
The prince said he had never suggested Jamal Khashoggi – who had been in London for a conference until the day before his disappearance – should go to Turkey for any reason.
It is understood CIA agents have also examined a call made to a senior aide of Crown Prince Mohammed by the team that carried out the killing.
Sources quoted in the media stressed that there was no single piece of evidence linking Crown Prince Mohammed directly to the murder, but officials believe such an operation would have needed his approval.
At a news conference in Riyadh on November 15, Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaan said Jamal Khashoggi was given a lethal injection and his body was dismembered inside the consulate after his death.
The body parts were then handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the grounds, the prosecutor added.
A composite sketch of the collaborator has been produced and investigations are continuing to locate the remains.
Eleven unidentified people have been charged over Jamal Khashoggi’s death and the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five of them.
A Saudi intelligence officer ordered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and not Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has concluded.
The intelligence officer was tasked with persuading Jamal Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, a spokesman said.
Jamal Khashoggi was given a lethal injection after a struggle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, he added.
The Gulf kingdom’s public prosecutor has charged 11 people over the murder and is seeking the death penalty for five of them.
Their cases have been referred to a court while investigations into another 10 people suspected of involvement continue.
Meanwhile, the US treasury department imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials who it said had “targeted and brutally killed” Jamal Khashoggi, who lived and worked in the US, and had to “face consequences for their actions”.
They included Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who the treasury department alleged was “part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder; Maher Mutreb, who it said had “coordinated and executed” the operation; and Mohammed Alotaibi, the Istanbul consul-general.
According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the sanctions were “an important step in responding to Khashoggi’s killing” and vowed to “continue to seek all relevant facts, consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved”.
At a news conference in Riyadh on November 15, Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaan said Jamal Khashoggi’s body was dismembered inside the consulate after his death.
The body parts were then handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the grounds, he added. A composite sketch of the collaborator has been produced and investigations are continuing to locate the remains.
The prosecutor did not identify any of those charged with the murder.
However, Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaane said investigations had “revealed that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiations team” sent to Istanbul by deputy intelligence chief Gen Ahmed al-Assiri to force Jamal Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia from his self-imposed exile.
“[The crown prince] did not have any knowledge about it,” the prosecutor insisted.
Crown Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, has denied any role in what he has called a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.
However, critics believe it is highly unlikely the crown prince would not have been aware of the operation.
Several of the 21 people arrested over the murder have been seen in his security detail in the past. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani have also been sacked over the incident.
The prosecutor said Saud al-Qahtani had been banned from travelling and remained under investigation, but he did not say what had happened to Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said “the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government” but that he does not believe King Salman gave it.
On November 15, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some of the statements by the Saudi deputy public prosecutor were “unsatisfactory”.
Turkish officials have alleged that the 15 Saudi agents who flew to Istanbul in the hours before the murder, one of whom is believed to have been a forensic pathologist working for the Saudi interior ministry, were carrying a bone saw.
However, the US has not said whether it has received a tape and France’s foreign minister has said it is not in possession of one as far as he is aware.
Saudi Arabia has admitted a team of agents murdered Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic who was living in self-imposed exile in the US and writing for the Washington Post, and it has arrested 18 people allegedly involved.
At a news conference in Paris on November 12, PM Justin Trudeau said Canadian intelligence agencies had been working very closely with Turkey on the murder investigation.
He added: “I had a conversation with Erdogan a couple of weeks ago over the phone. Here in Paris we had brief exchanges and I thanked him for his strength in responding to the Khashoggi situation.”
When asked whether Canada had heard the purported audio recordings, PM Trudeau said “yes”. But he added that he had not listened to them personally.
According to recent reports, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy service, travelled to Turkey to discuss the investigation and listened to the recording.
The director then briefed PM Trudeau and other Canadian officials on his visit to Turkey.
Justin Trudeau sidestepped a question about whether such evidence would have consequences for Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“We are in discussions with our like-minded allies as to the next steps with regard Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Justin Trudeau has faced calls to cancel a $13 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia for tanks and armored fighting vehicles built by an Ontario-based unit of the American firm General Dynamics.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada are already strained. In August, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of violating its sovereignty and froze new trade after Canadian officials called for the release of detained civil society and women’s rights activists.
On November 12, Turkey reacted angrily after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian contradicted President Erdogan’s assertion that France had received an audio recording from the consulate and accused the Turkish leader of playing “political games”.
Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 2 television: “The truth isn’t out yet. We want to know the truth, the circumstances of his death and the identity of the culprits. Then we will take the necessary actions.
“If the Turkish president has information to give us, he must give it to us. For now, I don’t know about it.”
Asked if that meant President Erdogan was lying, the foreign minister replied: “It means that he has a political game to play in these circumstances.”
The Turkish presidency’s communications director called the comments “unacceptable” and insisted a representative of French intelligence had listened to the tape on October 24.
Fahrettin Altun told AFP: “If there is miscommunication between the French government’s various agencies, it is up to the French authorities – not Turkey – to take care of that problem.”
The reported phone call to the White House came before Saudi Arabia admitted Jamal Khashoggi had been killed.
There is still no consensus on how Jamal Khashoggi died. The journalist entered the consulate to sort out documents for his marriage.
Initially, Turkish media had quoted sources as saying Turkey had audio recordings proving that Jamal Khashoggi had been tortured before being murdered.
Last week, however, Turkey said he had been strangled immediately after entering the consulate and Jamal Kashoggi’s body dismembered “in accordance with plans made in advance”.
Nobody has been found and a Turkish official said the body had been dissolved.
Saudi Arabia has changed its account of what happened to the journalist.
When Jamal Khashoggi first disappeared, Saudi Arabia said the journalist had walked out of the building alive. Saudi Arabia later admitted he had been murdered, saying the killing was premeditated and a result of a “rogue operation”.
Eighteen suspects have been arrested in Saudi Arabia, where will be prosecuted. However, Turkey wants the suspects to be extradited.
Turkey has not publicly blamed Saudi Arabia for the killing.
President Erdogan said in a TV speech on November 10: “We gave the recordings, we gave them to Saudi Arabia, we gave them to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the English.”
“They listened to the conversations which took place here, they know,” he said.
No other country has admitted hearing the said recording.
Saudi Arabia has admitted journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and blamed his killing on a “rogue operation”, giving a new account of an act that sparked a global outcry.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News “the murder” had been a “tremendous mistake” and denied the powerful crown prince had ordered it.
Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Saudi government, under intense pressure to explain Jamal Khashoggi’s whereabouts, has offered conflicting accounts.
They initially said Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate on October 2 – but on October 19 admitted for the first time he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fight. This claim met widespread skepticism.
Turkish officials believe the journalist, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence to prove it.
Adel al-Jubeir’s comments, describing the incident as murder, are some of the most direct to come from a Saudi official.
He said: “We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder.”
“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he added.
“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”
Adel al-Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia did not know where the body was and insisted the action had not been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as the country’s most powerful figure.
“Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.
However, Yeni Safak, a media outlet close to Turkey’s government, says it has information showing that the office of the crown prince received four phone calls from the consulate after the killing.
On October 21, Reuters reported it had spoken to a Saudi official who said Jamal Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to dispose of.
A Saudi operative then reportedly donned Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and left the consulate.
Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a fight in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia’s state TV reported quoting an initial probe.
According to the report, deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, were dismissed over the affair.
President Donald Trump said what had happened was “unacceptable” but that Saudi Arabia was a “great ally”.
This is the first time Saudi Arabia has admitted Jamal Khashoggi has died.
The acknowledgement follows two weeks of denials that the Saudi kingdom had any involvement in the disappearance of the prominent Saudi critic when he entered the consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to seek paperwork for his upcoming marriage.
Saudi Arabia had come under increased pressure to explain Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance after Turkish officials said he was deliberately killed inside the consulate, and his body dismembered.
On October 19, Turkish police widened their search from the consulate grounds to a nearby forest where unnamed officials believe his body may have been disposed of.
Observers are questioning whether Saudi Arabia’s Western allies will find the Saudis’ account of a “botched rendition” convincing – and whether it will persuade them not to take punitive action against Saudi Arabia.
A statement from the kingdom’s public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Jamal Khashoggi, who had fallen out of favor with the Saudi government, and people who met him in the consulate – ending with his death.
The investigations are still under way, the statement said, and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested. The Saudi authorities have yet to give evidence to support this version of events.
State media said King Salman had ordered the sacking of two senior officials.
Saud al-Qahtani is a prominent member of the Saudi Royal Court and adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Major-General Ahmed al-Assiri has acted as the top spokesman for Saudi Arabia about the war in Yemen.
King Salman has also reportedly ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed, to restructure the intelligence services.
Saudi Arabia said it had acted on information provided by Turkish authorities as part of its inquiry, investigating a number of suspects.
President Trump praised Saudi Arabia for acting quickly, and while he said sanctions were an option against the kingdom, he spoke of the possible effect such moves would have on the US economy. He said the arrests were an important “first step”.
Asked if he found Saudi Arabia’s version of events credible, the president replied: “I do.”
President Trump stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East, and pushed back against the need for sanctions against the kingdom in light of the new information, talking about the effect of such a move on the US economy.
Donald Trump spoke of his visit to Saudi Arabia – his first trip abroad as president – and the $110 billion arms deal he signed with the kingdom.
He said: “I’d rather keep the million jobs [in the US] and find another solution.”
Earlier this week President Trump said there would be “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was proved to have killed Jamal Khashoggi.
The White House said in a separate statement the US was “deeply saddened” to hear confirmation of Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
Turkish officials believe Jamal Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, and his body then removed – and they say they have video and audio evidence to back this up.
Saudi Arabia has denied this, and initially insisted Jamal Khashoggi had freely left the embassy.
Turkish newspapers with close links to the government have published gruesome details of the alleged audio, including what they describe as the sounds of screams and Jamal Khashoggi being interrogated and tortured.
Turkish media say they have identified a 15-member team of suspected Saudi agents who flew into and out of Istanbul on the day of the disappearance.
Speaking to reporters after a phone call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump has suggested “rogue killers” could be behind the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
He said the Saudi king had firmly denied knowing what had happened to Jamal Khashoggi.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is flying to Saudi Arabia immediately.
Turkish police have, for the first time, been inside the Saudi consulate where Jamal Khashoggi was last seen.
They entered the building around an hour after a group of Saudi officials.
Turkish officials believe Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate by Saudi agents nearly two weeks ago but Riyadh has always strongly denied this.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed media reports suggest Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit that Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of an interrogation that went wrong and that the original intention had been to abduct him.
Arabic channel Al-Jazeera quotes Turkey’s attorney-general’s office as saying it has found evidence to back claims that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the mission.
The issue has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with its closest Western allies.
President Trump addressed snatched questions from reporters over helicopter engine noise at the White House, describing King Salman’s denial as “very, very strong”.
“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” he added.
President Trump provided no evidence to back his comment.
Last week, the president threatened Saudi Arabia with “severe punishment” if it emerged that Jamal Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate but ruled out halting big military contracts with Riyadh.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia will be followed by a stop in Turkey.
Diplomatic pressure is growing on the Saudis to give a fuller explanation.
On October 15, King Salman ordered an investigation into the case.
“The king has ordered the public prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the information from the joint team in Istanbul,” a Saudi official quoted by Reuters said.
The official said the prosecutor had been instructed to work quickly.
Last week, Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal to form a joint working group to investigate Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Investigators entered the consulate in Istanbul on October 15 – first a Saudi team followed roughly an hour later by Turkish forensic police.
Turkish diplomatic sources had said the consulate would be searched by a joint Turkish-Saudi team.
A group of cleaners was seen entering earlier.
Saudi Arabia agreed last week to allow Turkish officials to conduct a search but insisted it would only be a superficial “visual” inspection.
Turkey rejected that offer. The Sabah daily newspaper said investigators had wanted to search the building with luminol, a chemical which shows up any traces of blood. It is not clear whether that happened.
King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone on October 14, officials said, and stressed the importance of the two countries working together on the case.
Pressure is growing on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met King Salman in Riyadh.
Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish officials believe the journalist was murdered by Saudi agents but the Saudis have denied this.
However, US media are reporting that the Saudis may be preparing to admit that Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of an interrogation that went wrong.
Overnight, Turkish police completed a search of the consulate after being admitted by Saudi authorities.
Mike Pompeo and King Salman have now met in Riyadh.
While much of what was discussed during has yet to be announced, the US State Department said that Mike Pompeo had used the time to thank the king for his “commitment to a thorough, transparent investigation” into Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The secretary of state was also expected to seek further clarification over a conversation between the king and President Donald Trump on October 15.
Tweeting earlier about the call, President Trump said: “Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened “to our Saudi Arabian citizen.” He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!”
The president later told reporters: “The denial was very, very strong. It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”
There is a lot at stake given the strength of Saudi-US ties. President Trump has already ruled out cancelling a lucrative arms deal, although he did threaten “severe punishment” if the kingdom were found to be responsible for the death.
On October 15, King Salman ordered an investigation into the missing journalist. Saudi statements up to now have dismissed allegations of a killing as “baseless” and “lies”.
Mike Pompeo is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his day in Riyadh. The secretary of state may then head to Turkey.
The New York Times and on CNN reported, quoting unnamed sources, that Saudi Arabia would acknowledge that Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong and the intention had been only to abduct him from Turkey.
This may explain in part President Trump’s “rogue killers” line.
Who such killers could be and how it fits into reports of a Saudi team being dispatched to the consulate before Jamal Khashoggi’s arrival will presumably need to covered.
Jamal Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia issued a statement calling for an “independent and impartial international commission”.
One source cited by the Washington Post said men can be heard beating Jamal Khashoggi; it adds that the recordings show he was killed and dismembered.
Earlier this week leading columnist Kemal Ozturk, considered close to the Turkish government, alleged there was a video of the moment Jamal Khashoggi was killed.
Turkish TV has already broadcast CCTV footage of the moment Jamal Khashoggi walked into the consulate for an appointment at which he was due to receive papers for his forthcoming marriage to Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
Separately, a video has emerged of men described as Saudi intelligence officers entering and leaving Turkey.
A 15-strong team has been identified by Turkish media who are described as involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Turkey’s official line is that the journalist is missing but that it knows “for sure” he has been killed.
However, the government has agreed to a joint investigation with the Saudis, and a Saudi delegation arrived in Turkey on October 12 to take part in talks expected over the weekend.
Their arrival came a day after a senior Saudi royal figure, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, was said to have briefly visited Turkey amid signs that the Saudi monarchy was seeking an urgent solution to the diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
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