Central Intelligence Agency believes Saudi crown prince ordered journalist's killing

But, the rights organization said in a statement, "in failing to sanction the crown prince or members of his inner circle, or taking other actions with respect to Saudi repression at home or its activities in Yemen, the administration isn't taking a particularly strong stand in terms of accountability". Trump says "maybe he did and maybe he didn't".

The sanctions freeze any assets the 17 may have in the US and prohibit any Americans from doing business with them.

Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said prior to the event that Khashoggi would receive a "worthy" funeral prayer now that his death had been confirmed.

The prosecutor's version of events hewed closely to a Saudi statement last month saying that the agents had been ordered only to persuade, or if necessary to force, the return to Saudi Arabia of Khashoggi, a USA resident and contributing columnist for The Washington Post who has written critically of the ruling monarchy.

"The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi", said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a press release.

The CIA's finding, first reported by the Washington Post, is the most definitive USA assessment to date tying Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler directly to the killing.

In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor on Thursday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul "by means of persuasion" - but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a "rogue" operation.

The absentee funeral prayer is to be held in Istanbul's Fatih Mosque. The conclusion was first reported by The Washington Post. According to a report from Reuters, the sanctions were announced on Thursday, just hours after Riyadh announced it would be seeking the death penalty for five of the men accused of the killing.

Asked whether the crown prince had lied to him in denying any role in the killing, Mr Trump said: "I don't know". But it said he made the call at the direction the crown prince, and the call was intercepted by US intelligence.

The intelligence agency reportedly examined a phone call between the crown prince's brother Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the USA, and Khashoggi. After a lot of pressure, they came out and said that Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered as soon as he entered the Consulate.

Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist living in Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government before he disappeared at the country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi authorities have 21 people in custody and the country's top prosecutor said he would seek the death penalty for five of the suspects. Khashoggi's murder has also led to increased scrutiny of Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen war, which has pushed the impoverished country to the brink of starvation.

The statement also urged Turkey to reciprocate the Kingdom's approach by providing the evidence in the case and meet Saudi demands to form a joint mechanism for cooperation on the investigation. "The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists".

  • Joey Payne