US denies reaching any conclusion on Jamal Khashoggi's killing after Washington Post reported that the CIA believed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the hit.

The US government denies coming to a final conclusion regarding the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) in the homicide of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (R) at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Composite compiled from AFP and Getty Images)
The US government denies coming to a final conclusion regarding the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) in the homicide of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (R) at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Composite compiled from AFP and Getty Images) (Composite / TRTWorld)

The US government has not reached a final conclusion over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Department of State said Saturday following reports that the CIA had held the Saudi Crown Prince responsible. 

However, President Donald Trump says the US will know who killed the Saudi journalist "within the next two days".

Speaking to reporters in Malibu, California after surveying damage from wildfires, Trump said a "full report" on "who did it" would be completed by Monday or Tuesday.

Trump spoke earlier on Saturday with CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Air Force One, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Soon after, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert issued a statement, saying, "Recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate." 

Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of the Saudi kingdom, had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiancee. Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom.

The Washington Post which first broke the story on Friday said American intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) ordered the killing, according to the US official familiar with that assessment. 

The Washington Post said the CIA reached its conclusions after examining multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.

The Saudi government has denied the claim.

The killing and the international uproar it triggered have frayed ties between Washington and longtime ally Riyadh, which has sought to end discussion of the murder and rejected calls for an international investigation.

TRT World speaks to Brett Bruen, a former US diplomat.

"There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr Khashoggi. The state department will continue to seek all relevant facts," Nauert said.

"In the meantime, we will continue to consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi."

She added that Washington had already taken "decisive measures" against individuals, including visa and sanctions actions.

Trump told reporters before he left the White House for California that, when it came to the crown prince, "as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say."

In his remarks, the president spoke of Saudi Arabia as "a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development."

"I have to take a lot of things into consideration" when deciding what measures to take against the kingdom.

The intelligence agencies' conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close US ally for the killing. The administration this past week penalised 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.

Saudi Arabia's top diplomat has said the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with the killing.

The Washington Post said the CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate.

Missing body

Speaking at a panel as part of an international conference in Halifax, Canada, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Khashoggi's killers may have taken the journalist's body parts out of Turkey in luggage.

"One probability is that they left the country three to four hours after committing the murder. They may have taken out Khashoggi's dismembered corpse inside luggage without facing problems due to their diplomatic immunity," CNN Turk cited Akar as saying.

Turkey has said a group of 15 individuals, including a two-man "clean-up team", was involved and that Khashoggi's body had been dismembered. Turkish officials have also called for an investigation into whether the body was dissolved in acid.

Saudi public prosecutor Shalaan al Shalaan said on Thursday that Khashoggi's body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed to an unidentified "local cooperator".

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.

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.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies