Khashoggi murder: Saudi crown prince ‘crazy’, says US senator

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Lindsey Graham: ‘There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw’ (BBC)

US senators say they are confident the Saudi crown prince was linked to the murder of a Saudi journalist, following a private CIA briefing.

Senator Lindsey Graham said he had “high confidence” Mohammed bin Salman knew in advance about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The South Carolina Republican described the Saudi royal as “a wrecking ball” and “crazy” and “dangerous”.

The Saudis have charged 11 people but deny the crown prince was involved.

CIA Director Gina Haspel spoke to Senate leaders earlier on Tuesday.

She was absent from last week’s briefing by the secretaries of state and defence, angering some in Congress.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The CIA has concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “probably ordered” the killing.

The CIA has evidence he exchanged messages with Saud al-Qahtani, who allegedly oversaw the murder.

Mohammed bin Salman (BBC)

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis told senators last week there was no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement.

President Donald Trump has said the CIA findings on the crown prince were not conclusive. On 20 November he said: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”

Influential members of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations did not mince words after the CIA briefing on Tuesday.

“You have to be wilfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS,” Mr Graham said, using the crown prince’s initials.

The senator said he could not support arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as the Saudi crown prince remained in power, or the kingdom’s war in Yemen.

“There is not a smoking gun – there is a smoking saw,” the senator added, referring to Khashoggi’s alleged dismemberment.

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, told reporters he was “now more convinced than I was before” that the crown prince was complicit.

He said the US must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable in the world’s stage”.

Mr Menendez added that he was cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would impose sanctions against anyone found responsible. (Excerpts from BBC)

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