CIA officials are certain that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered last month’s assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, despite the Saudi government’s claims to the contrary, according to The Washington Post.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who was a contributor to The Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Saudi writer is believed to have been killed soon after entering the building. It is believed his body was dismembered and disposed of.
The CIA reportedly examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call to Khashoggi from the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Sources said Khalid told Khashoggi that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve some documents, while assuring him that he would be safe.
Although it’s not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, he did make the call at his brother’s direction, and it was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
Khalid bin Salman denied the allegation via Twitter soon after the Post published its article.
He elaborated a short time later.
A CIA official told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that the agency came to its conclusion the Crown Prince ordered the killing not on “smoking gun” evidence but rather on “an understanding of how Saudi Arabia works.”
“This would not and could not have happened” without Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement, the official said.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced it would seek the death penalty for five of 11 suspects, even though Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Khashoggi was once close to the Saudi royal family, but had grown increasingly critical of human rights abuses in the kingdom and was living in Washington, D.C. Although the kingdom considered him a “dissident,” he never wanted the label, according to a tweet posted last month by fellow Washington Post writer Karen Attiah.