The US Central Intelligence Agency has concluded Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, US media reported Friday, citing people close to the matter.
The US assessment directly contradicts the conclusions of a Saudi prosecutor one day prior, which exonerated the prince of involvement in the brutal murder.
But The Washington Post, which broke the story, said the CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate.
Queried by AFP, the CIA declined to comment.
Khashoggi, a Post columnist, had gone to the consulate to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Saudi Arabia — which quickly dismissed the reported CIA findings — has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.
In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor on Thursday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul “by means of persuasion” — but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a “rogue” operation.
The CIA examined multiple intelligence sources, the Post said, among them a phone call between the prince’s brother — the Saudi ambassador to the United States — and Khashoggi.
The ambassador reportedly told the late journalist that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul and get the papers he needed.
– ‘Some things you can’t do’ –
But a Saudi embassy spokesperson said that Ambassador Khalid bin Salman had never discussed “anything related to going to Turkey” with Khashoggi.
“Amb Prince Khalid bin Salman has never had any phone conversations with (Khashoggi),” the statement posted on the ambassador’s Twitter account said.
“The claims in this purported assessment is false,” it said.
The US intelligence agency also said in determining the crown prince’s role it considered him a “de facto ruler” of Saudi Arabia: “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” the Post quoted an official as saying.
That official dubbed Prince Mohammed a “good technocrat” — but also someone unpredictable who “goes from zero to 60, doesn’t seem to understand that there are some things you can’t do.”
The New York Times later reported that the CIA findings were also based on calls from the kill team to one of the crown prince’s senior aides.
But the paper said that while the intercepts showed Prince Mohammed was working to lure Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, the crown prince had not said in the calls that he wanted Khashoggi killed.
The Times cited officials as saying US and Turkish intelligence so far have not found direct evidence connecting the prince to Khashoggi’s killing.
Following the reports, US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday said Washington “is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder.”
On the sidelines of an APEC summit in Papua New Guinea, Pence described the Saudi journalist’s killing as an “atrocity” and an “affront to a free and independent press” but declined to comment on classified information.
The CIA conclusions threaten to further fray relations between Washington and longtime ally Riyadh, which has sought to end discussion of the murder and rejected calls for an international investigation.
“We are going to follow the facts,” said Pence.
But he added the US wanted to find a way of preserving a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on 17 people, including close aides of Prince Mohammed, suggesting a coordinated effort between Riyadh and Washington to pre-empt the threat of harsher actions from an outraged US Congress.
US President Donald Trump has shied away from directly blaming the Crown Prince but on Friday agreed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that “any cover-up of the incident should not be allowed.”
Silent Diplomacy Helped Secure Zainab Aliyu’s Release – Foreign Affairs Ministry
The Foreign Affairs Ministry says its silent diplomatic efforts in the past few weeks culminated in the release of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar arrested by Saudi authority for a drug-related offence.
The ministry said in a statement by the Acting spokesman, Friday Akpan, in Abuja stressed that the intervention by President Muhammadu Buhari directing that all efforts be exerted to secure their release facilitated the expedited final favourable resolution of the matter.
While explaining further its efforts on the release of the two Nigerians, the ministry stated that on receipt of the information on their arrest, the Nigerian Consulate in Jeddah intervened. It stated that the Nigerian Mission in Saudi then requested for a full investigation to ascertain the innocence of Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar.
“The outcome of the investigation and subsequent trial of the suspects confirmed the innocence of the two Nigerians.
“The Consulate General of Nigeria in Jeddah, upon instruction from Headquarters, therefore sent series of Diplomatic Notes to the Saudi Foreign Ministry informing of the arrest of members of the syndicate in Kano and forwarding the report of the NDLEA investigation and court proceeding.”
The ministry commended the Saudi government, through its Embassy in Abuja and officials of Saudi Foreign Ministry, for cooperating with Nigeria in the eventual resolution of the matter.
Sudan Army Removes, Arrests President Bashir
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power and detained by the army, Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf announced on state television on Thursday.
“I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Ibnouf said.
A transitional military council would replace Bashir for two years, he said, adding that the country’s borders and airspace would be shut until further notice.
The veteran leader, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, was one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. He is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Since early morning huge crowds of jubilant Sudanese had begun thronging squares across the centre of Khartoum on Thursday as the army promised an “important announcement”.
Chanting “the regime has fallen,” thousands poured into the open ground outside army headquarters where defiant protesters have braved tear gas to keep up an unprecedented sit-in now in its sixth day.
The protests, which erupted in December over the government’s tripling of the price of bread, were the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s long rule.
The security agency also announced it was freeing all political prisoners.
Army vehicles carrying troops were seen deploying across the centre of Khartoum from early Thursday.
Troops raided the offices of the Islamic Movement, the ideological wing of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, witnesses told AFP. And martial music was played on state television as soldiers ordered the TV to halt its normal programming.
Outside army headquarters, dozens of joyful protesters climbed on top of landcruisers and armoured vehicles that had been posted to protect them from intervention by other branches of the security forces.
Braving the searing 42 degree Celsius (108 degree Fahrenheit) heat, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers in the crowd.
– ‘Political detainees freed’ –
Sudan’s feared intelligence service said it was freeing all the country’s political prisoners, state media reported.
“The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said.
But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, protesters stormed NISS buildings after the releases failed to materialise, witnesses said.
Protesters approached the NISS building in Kasala demanding that officers free their prisoners, a witness told AFP by telephone from the city.
“But NISS officers fired in the air after which protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment inside,” he said.
Protesters chanting slogans against Bashir also stormed an NISS building in Port Sudan, a witness said.
The raids on NISS buildings came despite a call by protest organisers for demonstrators to refrain from attacking government figures or buildings.
“We are calling on our people to control themselves and not to attack anybody or government and private properties,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), the umbrella group that is spearheading the protest movement, said in a statement.
“Anyone found doing this will be punished by law. Our revolution is peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.”
– ‘It’s enough’ –
“We had enough of this regime — 30 years of repression, corruption, rights abuses, it’s enough,” said one protester at the sit-in.
Demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling headquarters complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.
There has been an often festive mood at the sit-in, with protesters singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs.
The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the NISS since they began camping outside the complex on Saturday, protest organisers say.
Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.
“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside army headquarters.
Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.
“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition,” the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.
WikiLeaks Founder Assange Arrested by British Police
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been holed up since August 2012 and the British police have arrested him.
The arrest followed Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno’s announcement that the country has withdrawn asylum from Assange, following repeated ‘aggressive and discourteous behaviour”.
A statement by the British police said they were invited into the Ecuadorean embassy by the ambassador to effect the arrest. He had been holed up in the embassy since 2012.
“Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador,” police said.
The plan for the eviction was initially denied by authorities in Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
But today, President Lenin Moreno issued a video statement explaining why the country withdrew the asylum.
“Ecuador decided sovereignly to withdraw the diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange by repeatedly violating international conventions and protocol of coexistence”, Moreno tweeted.
Assange’s relationship with Ecuadorian officials appeared increasingly strained since the Moreno came to power in the Latin American country in 2017. His internet connection was cut off in March of last year, with officials saying the move was to stop Assange from “interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states.”
The whistleblower garnered massive international attention in 2010 when WikiLeaks released classified US military footage, entitled ‘Collateral Murder’, of a US Apache helicopter gunship opening fire on a number of people, killing 12 including two Reuters staff, and injuring two children.
The footage, as well as US war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 200,000 diplomatic cables, were leaked to the site by US Army soldier Chelsea Manning. She was tried by a US tribunal and sentenced to 35 years in jail for disclosing the materials.
Manning was pardoned by President Barack Obama in 2017 after spending seven years in US custody. She is currently being held again in a US jail for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury in a case apparently related to WikiLeaks.
Assange’s seven-year stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy was motivated by his concern that he may face similarly harsh and arguably unfair prosecution by the US for his role in publishing troves of classified US documents over the years.
His legal troubles stem from an accusation by two women in Sweden, with both claiming they had a sexual encounter with Assange that was not fully consensual. The whistleblower said the allegations were false. Nevertheless, they yielded to the Swedish authorities who sought his extradition from the UK on “suspicion of rape, three cases of sexual abuse and unlawful compulsion.”
In December 2010, he was arrested in the UK under a European Arrest Warrant and spent time in Wandsworth Prison before being released on bail and put under house arrest.
During that time, Assange hosted a show on RT known as ‘World Tomorrow or The Julian Assange Show’, in which he interviewed several world influencers in controversial and thought-provoking episodes.
*With reports by www.rt.com
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