Moscow, Feb 8 (GCCurrentAffairs) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud said in a conversation with one of his aides that he would go after journalist Jamal Khashoggi, killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, “with a bullet” a year prior to the murder, media have reported, citing US and foreign officials familiar with intelligence reports.
The New York Times reported late on Thursday that in the conversation, which took place in September 2017, the prince told his aide Turki Aldakhil that if Khashoggi did not return or was not brought by force to Saudi Arabia from the United States and did not stop criticizing the Saudi authorities, the prince would use a bullet on him.
US intelligence analysists reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed had likely used the phrase a metaphor, expressing his intention to kill the journalists unless he returned to Saudi Arabia.
The conversation, which was intercepted and transcribed by the US intelligence, took place during the period when Riyadh’s concerns about Khashoggi’s criticism were growing and amid the prince’s moves to tighten his grip on power in Saudi Arabia, the newspaper noted.
The outlet added that the conversation took place the same month as Khashoggi began writing his articles, criticizing the Saudi authorities, for The Washington Post.
The newspaper continued by citing another part of the intelligence report. It reportedly read that prior to his conversation with Aldakhil, the Saudi crown prince had complained to his other adviser, Saud Qahtani, about Khashoggi’s growing influence as his materials were undermining the prince’s image of a reformer. As Qahtani reportedly warned the prince any action against Khashoggi would create an international outrage, the prince said that Riyadh should not care about international reaction to its actions toward its own citizens, adding he was against “half-measures.”
The New York Times noted that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies were analyzing years of intercepted conversations of the Saudi prince in a bid to learn who was behind the murder of Khashoggi.
While the NSA declined to comment to the New York Times on the matter, Aldakhil called the claims outlined by the newspaper “categorically false.”
“They appear to be a continuation of various efforts by different parties to connect His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to this horrific crime. These efforts will prove futile,” the official told the outlet.
Khashoggi went missing on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of the journalist’s whereabouts but later admitted that Khashoggi had been killed with a drug injection and his body had been dismembered and taken out of the consulate. Saudi authorities have since charged 11 people with Khashoggi’s murder.
Notably, Qahtani, whom the US intelligence agencies see as the main person in the operation that killed Khashoggi, was dismissed in the course of the Saudi investigation into the incident. However, it is still unknown if the authorities had implicated him in the murder.
The killing of Khashoggi did result in an international uproar and criticism of Riyadh. Western media have repeatedly suggested that the Saudi prince had a role in the operation, something which has repeatedly been denied by the Saudi Foreign Ministry.