The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, contradicting the Saudi government's assertions that he was not involved, according to a media report.
The death of Khashoggi, a one-time insider-turned-critic of the crown prince and a resident of the United States, has spurred a wave of international anger against Saudi Arabia and its ruler.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen entering the kingdom's consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage.
Saudi Arabia had offered a series of contradictory explanations for Khashoggi's death.
After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted Khashoggi had been murdered at the compound but blamed it on a "rogue" operation.
American officials have expressed high confidence in the agency's assessment, which is the most definitive to date, allegedly linking Saudi Arabia's crown prince to the killing, according to The Washington Post.
The CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government planes to Istanbul and carried out the killing at the Saudi consulate, the report said, adding that it could complicate President Donald Trump's efforts to preserve US ties with one of the closest American allies in the region.
"The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved," a US official familiar with the CIA's conclusions, told the daily.
Saudi Arabia has denied any such linkage.
Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said that the claims in the CIA's "purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations."
According to the report, it is CIA assessment that the crown prince who is the defacto ruler of the country would survive the crisis.
Officially Saudi Arabia has blamed the brutal murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to rogue elements. Khashoggi was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an
overdose that led to his death, alleged the Saudi prosecutors, who has sought death penalty for 11 of its officials.
Turkish investigating agencies provided the CIA an audio recording that proves the brutal murder of Khashoggi. After his killing, one of those involved in it called Saud al Qahtani, then one of the top aides to
Mohammed, and informed him that the operation had been completed, according to people familiar with the call.
A conclusion that the crown prince was responsible for the murder of Khashoggi could endanger the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, The Wall Street Journal said.
"The assessment that the Crown Prince ordered the murder is not surprising but it significantly undermines the administration's effort to whitewash the Saudi prince," Bruce Riedel, a former top CIA and White House official, who is now at the Brookings Institution think tank, told The Wall Street Journal.
"It raises the question why the crown prince has not been sanctioned by the Treasury Department,” Riedel said.
"The CIA just concluded that MBS, the Saudi Crown Prince, ordered Khashoggi's killing. Every literate person knows that MBS continues to order the killing of thousands of civilians in Yemen. It's time for the
US to stop supporting MBS's war in Yemen. Congress must act," Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna said in a tweet on Friday.