Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince sent 11 messages to an aide overseeing the Jamal Khashoggi hit squad in the hours surrounding the journalist’s murder, it is claimed.
Mohammed bin Salman was allegedly in touch with Saud al-Qahtani immediately before and after Khashoggi went missing in Istanbul on October 2.
Qahtani is believed to have supervised the 15-man murder squad and was in touch with them at the same time as he was communicating with the prince, according to a CIA assessment reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied that Prince Mohammed knew about the murder or played any part in it.
Mohammed bin Salman, pictured at the G20 summit in Argentina yesterday, was allegedly in touch with the supervisor of a 15-man hit squad which killed Jamal Khashoggi
The report claims that the prince sent at least 11 electronic messages to his adviser, although the CIA does not know what they said.
It is also alleged that Prince Mohammed had spoken in August 2017 of ‘making arrangements’ to lure him to a foreign country if he could not be returned to Saudi Arabia.
The CIA assessment reportedly said that the discussion ‘seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi’.
Qahtani has since been sacked but his influence in the kingdom has led many to believe he could not have overseen the operation without the prince’s knowledge.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Riyadh, was killed and his body dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi agents on October 2.
The killing has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered Prince Mohammed’s image abroad.
Turkey has said the hit was ordered at the highest levels of Saudi leadership, and the CIA assessed the prince was directly behind it, despite vehement Saudi denials.
Washington has imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Qahtani, the prince’s senior aide.
The prince is alleged to have sent at least 11 messages to Saud al-Qahtani, left, who oversaw the hit squad that travelled to Istanbul and murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right
But Donald Trump has largely stood by the crown prince, defying intense pressure from lawmakers to impose broader sanctions on Saudi Arabia.
Prince Mohammed is today at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires as the controversy over Khashoggi’s killing continues to dominate the West’s relations with Saudi Arabia.
Human Rights Watch has asked Argentine prosecutors to investigate him for human rights abuses.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir are said to have ‘discussed the importance of making progress’ in the investigation into Khashoggi’s killing during talks.
British PM Theresa May told the prince that the killers of Khashoggi should be held to account, her office said after the two leaders met.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the prince in a separate meeting that Europeans will insist on international experts being part of the investigation into Khashoggi’s killing.
Western nations are also calling for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighbouring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed, as a humanitarian crisis there worsens.