Speaking to the CBS program “60 Minutes,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also denied ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives last year, but said he ultimately bears “full responsibility” as the kingdom’s de facto leader.
While Khashoggi’s death sparked a global uproar and tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, the Trump administration’s tense standoff with Saudi arch-foe Iran has more recently dominated U.S. policy toward Riyadh, especially after Sept. 14 attacks on the heart of the Saudi oil industry.
Days before the anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder, MbS said: “Absolutely not,” when asked if he had ordered it. But he said he took full responsibility “since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.” “This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.”
The CIA and some Western governments believe MbS ordered the killing, but Saudi officials have repeatedly said he had no role. Asked about the CIA assessment, MbS asked for “such information” to be revealed.
After initial denials, the official Saudi narrative blamed the murder on rogue operatives. The public prosecutor said then-deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, a royal insider who became an outspoken critic, but the lead negotiator ordered him killed after discussions for his return failed.
Asked how the killing could have happened without him knowing about it, MbS said: “Some think that I should know what 3 million people working for the Saudi government do daily? It’s impossible that the 3 million would send their daily reports to the leader or the second highest person in the Saudi government.”
Eleven Saudi suspects have been put on trial in secretive proceedings. A U.N. report called for MbS and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated. Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser, were fired over involvement in the operation. Asiri is standing trial, but Qahtani is not.
Controversial death of Saudi journalist triggered a storm in International community. Saudi Arabia had failed to return even dead body of Khashoggi. Khashoggi was allegedly killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team sent from Riyadh on October 2, a murder Turkey’s president said was ordered from “the highest levels” of Saudi Arabia’s government.
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