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Iran Press TV

MbS told aide he would use 'bullet' on Khashoggi, intel gathered by US shows

Iran Press TV

Fri Feb 8, 2019 03:17PM

American intelligence agencies have revived communication – originally intercepted in 2017 – between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a close aide in which Mohammed says he would use "a bullet" on Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi if he did not return to Saudi Arabia or stop criticizing the prince.

The intelligence, part of voice and text communication routinely intercepted and stored by US spy agencies, has come to light only lately, amid attempts by those agencies to find out who was behind the murder of Khashoggi, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing current and former American and foreign officials.

Once a devoted member of the Saudi court, Khashoggi became critical of Mohammed as the prince started to amass power and grew increasingly repressive. Khashoggi then traveled to the United States and began writing an opinion column for The Washington Post, before he was ultimately lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and brutally murdered by Saudi agents in October 2018.

The conversation recently revived from US intelligence storage took place between Mohammed and Turki Aldakhil, his aide, in September 2017. The Times said it was when Saudi officials were growing uncomfortable about Khashoggi's rising reach as a critic of Mohammed's policies.

"In the conversation, Prince Mohammed said that if Mr. Khashoggi could not be enticed back to Saudi Arabia, then he should be returned by force. If neither of those methods worked, the crown prince said, then he would go after Mr. Khashoggi 'with a bullet,'" the US daily wrote.

Days before that conversation, Mohammed "complained to another aide – Saud al-Qahtani – that Mr. Khashoggi had grown too influential," and that his critical articles and Twitter posts "were tarnishing the crown prince's image," according to the report.

Qahtani then told Mohammed that any move against Khashoggi would be too risky, but the prince then "scolded" him, saying he "did not like half-measures – he never liked them and did not believe in them."

Like his boss, Qahtani has been largely implicated in Khashoggi's state-sponsored murder.

Turkey, which said it was in possession of audio evidence of Khashoggi's murder soon after he failed to exit the consulate, has indirectly suggested that Mohammed ordered his killing. The Washington Post reported in November last year that the CIA had also concluded that Mohammed ordered his killing.

Saudi Arabia initially denied that Khashoggi had been murdered in the consulate. Weeks later, however, and as international pressure largely spearheaded by Turkey mounted, the Riyadh regime acknowledged the murder but has since then attempted to shift the blame to Mohammed's underlings – including Qahtani – and away from the prince himself.

International suspicion, however, remains largely directed at Mohammed.

Turkey complains about lack of Saudi transparency

Separately, an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described the "complete lack of transparency" from Saudi officials on the investigation into the killing of Khashoggi as a matter of great concern.

Fahrettin Altun, the director of communications at the Turkish Presidency, told Reuters that the series of "false denials" from Saudi officials had raised doubts about a range of issues related to the case.

"Over the past four months, the Saudi authorities have been less-than-forthcoming in their dealings with their Turkish counterparts and the international community," Altun said in a written statement issued to Reuters.

On Thursday, a United Nations-led probe into Khashoggi's murder concluded that the Saudi dissident had been the victim of a "brutal and premeditated killing" planned and perpetrated by Saudi officials.

"Saudi authorities must extradite Mr. Khashoggi's killers to Turkey, where they committed a premeditated murder, as proof of their willingness to serve the cause of justice," Altun said.

Agnes Callamard, the lead UN investigator in the case, has said that Saudi officials had "seriously undermined" and delayed Turkey's efforts to investigate the crime scene, the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, in October last year.

"The world is watching. Turkey, along with all nations that believe in democracy and freedom, seeks justice and the truth," Altun, the Turkish presidential aide, said.

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