CIA has concluded Saudi crown prince ordered journalist's killing -Washington Post

WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, the Washington Post reported on Friday, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.

The Post said U.S. officials have expressed high confidence in the CIA assessment, which is the most definitive to date linking Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler to the killing and complicates President Donald Trump's efforts to preserve U.S. ties with one of the closest American allies in the region.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the accuracy of the report, but a source familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments told Reuters U.S. government experts assess with confidence that the crown prince ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi's death.

The White House declined to comment on the Post report, saying it was an intelligence matter. The State Department also declined to comment.

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Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman
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Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman
ARCHIVO - En esta fotografía de archivo del 12 de abril de 2018, el príncipe heredero saudí Mohammed bin Salman se prepara para irse tras una ceremonia con el jefe de gobierno español Mariano Rajoy en Madrid, España. (AP Foto/Paul White, archivo)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018. Pompeo also met on Tuesday with Saudi King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)
FILE - In this Thursday, June 14, 2018 file photo, President Vladimir Putin, shakes hands with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. (Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via AP)
Spain's King Felipe, left, his wife Queen Letizia, right, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud stand to welcome guests before a lunch at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)
This photo released Monday, April 9, 2018 on the official twitter page of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, shows Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, takes a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, in the King George V Hotel, in Paris, France. (The official twitter page of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri via AP)
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on September 30, 2018 shows the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (R), welcoming Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City. (Photo by Bandar AL-JALOUD / various sources / AFP) / XGTY (Photo credit should read BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L-R) during the opening ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
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Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 when he went there to pick up documents he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, had resisted pressure from Riyadh for him to return home. Saudi officials have said a team of 15 Saudi nationals were sent to confront Khashoggi at the consulate and that he was accidentally killed in a chokehold by men who were trying to force him to return to the kingdom.

Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to extradite those responsible to stand trial. An adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia of trying to cover up the murder.

His remarks came after Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor said he was seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in Khashoggi's killing. The Saudi prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters the Saudi crown prince knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered and removed from the consulate.

The Post, citing people familiar with the matter, said the CIA reached its conclusions after examining multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.

Khalid told Khashoggi he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so, the Post said.

The newspaper, citing people familiar with the call, said it was not clear if Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed but that he made the call at his brother's direction.

Ambassador Khalid bin Salman said in a Twitter posted on Friday the last contact he had with Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017, nearly a year before the journalist's death.

"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," he said in his Twitter message.

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Saudi prince meets with Khashoggi family members
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Saudi prince meets with Khashoggi family members
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receive Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receive Khashoggi family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, right, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second right, receive Sahel, a family member, and Salah, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Saudi Arabia, which for weeks maintained that Jamal Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he was killed there in a "fistfight." (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi King Salman, right, points to Salah, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second right, looks on, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Saudi Arabia, which for weeks maintained that Jamal Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he was killed there in a "fistfight." (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
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(Reporting by David Alexander, Mark Hosenball, Jeff Mason; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

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