Trump admits MbS 'may have been behind Khashoggi killing'

Trump admits MbS 'may have been behind Khashoggi killing'
The US president said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is "running things" in Riyadh.
2 min read
24 October, 2018
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has come under intense scrutiny [Getty]

US President Donald Trump has suggested that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could be ultimately responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, in remarks published by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

The president's words mark a tougher turn in Washington's handling of the Khashoggi affair, which heaped intense pressure on Saudi Arabia and its Western allies.

"Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him," Trump told the Journal.

After more than two weeks of near silence, Saudi Arabia admitted on Saturday that Khashoggi, 59, was killed in its Istanbul consulate on 2 October, in what it said was an operation gone wrong.

Since the admission, Washington has increased pressure on Riyadh, including by revoking visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials involved in the killing.

The sanctions, which were announced on Tuesday, came on the same day Trump blasted Saudi Arabia's actions.

"They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups," Trump declared in the Oval Office.

"Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst cover-up ever," he added.

Turkey, meanwhile, has also increased pressure on Riyadh, with an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having said this week that Prince Mohammed has "blood on his hands" over Khashoggi.

Turkish officials cited by pro-government newspapers have in recent days claimed that Khashoggi's killers contacted the crown prince several times on the day of the journalist's killing.

However in a keynote speech on Tuesday, Erdogan stopped short of pointing the blame at the 33-year-old heir to the throne.

Since taking over control from his father three years ago, Prince Mohammed has led a far-reaching crackdown on dissent in the ultra-conservative kingdom. This crackdown has included the arrests of several public figures, businessman and rival princes from the Saudi royal family.

The crown prince broke his silence on Khashoggi's killing on Wednesday at an investment summit in Riyadh, describing the assassination as a "heinous crime that cannot be justified".