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The death of Jamal Khashoggi, the writer and activist who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey last month, came at the directive of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the CIA has determined according to a report out Friday.
The agency’s conclusion came as a result of “an understanding of how Saudi Arabia works,” rather than a “smoking gun,” a U.S. official with knowledge of the situation told The Wall Street Journal.
Khashoggi’s death “would not and could not have happened” if MBS was not connected, an official told the outlet.
The revelation comes a day after Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir insisted that the crown prince did not play a role in the Washington Post columnist’s death.
“Absolutely, his royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue,” he told reporters.
MBS has also “denied any knowledge” of the circumstances that led to Khashoggi’s disappearance, President Trump said.
“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” the president tweeted on Oct. 16.
News of the CIA’s findings comes one day after the Treasury Department announced they were sanctioning 17 Saudi government officials over Khashoggi’s death.
“These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States continues to diligently work to ascertain all of the facts and will hold accountable each of those we find responsible in order to achieve justice for Khashoggi’s fiancée, children, and the family he leaves behind.”
21 people are in custody, the Saudis said. And the country’s top prosecutor revealed that he would seek the death penalty for five of them.
Saudi Arabia previously claimed that Khashoggi was killed in a fight.
“Discussions between citizen Jamal Khashoggi and those who met him while he was in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a physical altercation, which led to his death,” Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Alex Pappas and Matt Richardson contributed to this report.