CIA finds MBS texted to Khashoggi hit squad leader

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the G20 Leaders' Summit family photo on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires. Global leaders gather in the Argentine capital for a two-day G20 summit beginning on Friday likely to be dominated by simmering international tensions over trade.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent about a dozen messages to the leader of the team that killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a top secret CIA assessment. 

According to the highly classified CIA report cited by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, known by media as MBS, sent Saud al-Qahtani, a top servant who was later sacked, at least 11 messages at the time of the crime.

Bin Salman had instructed his men back in August 2017 that “we could possibly lure [Khashoggi] outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” if the crown prince could not convince the dissident Saudi journalist, who was living in the United States, to return to Saudi Arabia. according to the classified CIA report as quoted by The Hill political website from WSJ.

The report states that the communication “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi,” according to the Journal.

Another excerpt reportedly states that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.”

“To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order,” according to the excerpts reported by the Journal.

The adviser in question, Saud al-Qahtani, was sanctioned by the White House last month for his involvement in Khashoggi’s death.

The CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing. However, US President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the CIA report.

The Senate on Wednesday advanced a resolution that would end US military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s civil war, issuing a rebuke to Trump after the White House opposed the bill. The resolution advanced even as the administration vowed to stand by Saudi Arabia following global outcry over the killing of Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain marriage documents for his upcoming wedding.

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