Dissent journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was killed by a Saudi hit squad operating under the command of Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), United States intelligence agencies have said.
The declassified report released by the Biden administration on Friday said the crown prince approved a plan to either capture or kill the US-based Saudi exile.
It is the first time America has publicly named the crown prince, who denies ordering the death.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report by the office of the US director of national intelligence said.
According to the US intelligence report, the crown prince approved the mission because he has been in control of decision-making in the kingdom since 2017, the direct involvement in the operation of one of his advisers as well as members of his protective detail, and his “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad”.
The report also named individuals allegedly complicit in, or responsible for, Khashoggi’s death.
Former US President Donald Trump’s administration held back the long-awaited report despite a 2019 law passed by Congress requiring its release.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post newspaper who had been critical of the Saudi government, was murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Saudi authorities have blamed the killing on a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return the journalist to the kingdom.
A Saudi court tried and sentenced five individuals to 20 years in prison last September, after initially sentencing them to death.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused the Saudi state of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
Additional reporting from Al Jazeera and BBC