Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally ordered members of his elite security detail to carry out a “capture or kill” operation against Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to a newly declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
Khashoggi was murdered and allegedly dismembered during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Tukey, in 2018. The U.S. had not previously disclosed that close advisers to bin Salman had helped plan the operation, nor that members of his security team helped carry it out.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report said.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” it added.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) February 26, 2021
The report said the operation team consisted of 15 members, including seven from Salman’s Rapid Intervention Force (RIF) that serves as his security team, and eight individuals who “worked for or were associated with” the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs.” The RIF answers only to bin Salman, making it extremely unlikely that the operation was carried out without his personal approval, the report said.
The Biden administration has already signaled deteriorating relations with the Saudi government, with Biden saying he will meet with his “counterpart” King Salman. Despite his title, King Salman’s son, bin Salman, is the de-facto leader of Saudi Arabia and has traditionally met with U.S. presidents. (RELATED: OPINION: Khashoggi Is No Hero, And Neither Is The Washington Post)
Bin Salman was relegated to speaking with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a meeting with the U.S. on February 19.
A CIA report from just one month after Khashoggi’s murder found that not only was the Saudi government involved in his killing, but that bin Salman had personally ordered his assassination.