MBS described Khashoggi as 'dangerous Islamist' in call with top US officials: Report

#Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi's family rejects Saudi crown prince's claim slain journalist was Muslim Brotherhood member, Washington Post reports

Mohammed bin Salman made comments in phone call with White House advisers Jared Kushner and John Bolton, according to Washington Post report (Reuters)
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Friday 2 November 2018 6:58 UTC
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Mohammed bin Salman described Jamal Khashoggi as a "dangerous Islamist" in a phone call with top White House officials shortly after the Saudi journalist disappeared, the Washington Post has reported, a claim that Khashoggi’s family has flatly denied.

Citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the discussion, the Post report said the phone call took place between the powerful Saudi crown prince and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, and the US president's national security adviser, John Bolton, only a few days after Khashoggi disappeared on 2 October.

In the call, bin Salman, also known as MBS, urged Kushner and Bolton to preserve strong US-Saudi ties, the newspaper reported.

MBS also told the US officials that Khashoggi - a Saudi insider-turned-critic and prominent columnist for the Post - was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to the Post, a person familiar with the discussion said Bolton did not say he agreed with bin Salman’s characterisation of Khashoggi.

In a statement to the Post, Khashoggi’s family said he was not a member of the group. “He denied such claims repeatedly over the past several years,” the family said.

“Jamal Khashoggi was not a dangerous person in any way possible. To claim otherwise would be ridiculous.”

A Saudi official denied that MBS made the comments, telling the US newspaper that “routine calls do exist from time to time” but that “no such commentary was conveyed”.

Kushner, who has been advising the Trump administration on Middle East policy, has a close personal relationship with MBS and was a major driver behind last year's major US weapons deal with the kingdom.

Earlier this year, The Intercept website reported that the crown prince said he had Kushner "in his pocket," citing an unidentified source.

The Post also reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have called senior Trump administration officials in recent days to urge the US to back the crown prince, whom they described as "an important strategic partner in the region".

Evolving Saudi story

Still, MBS's purported conversation with Kushner and Bolton took place at a time when Saudi Arabia was still insisting that Khashoggi, a Saudi insider-turned-critic, had left the country's Istanbul consulate unharmed.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to retrieve paperwork for his pending marriage and never emerged from the building.

The Saudis' story has changed repeatedly since that time, with the country's public prosecutor saying on 25 October that the journalist’s killing was premeditated.

Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and then dismembered in the consulate, Turkish officials have told Middle East Eye.

Jamal Khashoggi was not a dangerous person in any way possible. To claim otherwise would be ridiculous

- Khashoggi family statement

Critics of the Gulf kingdom say Saudi officials have since sought to shelter MBS from having to take any responsibility for the murder.

Instead, the Saudis fired a handful of top officials they say were involved, including a senior aide to the crown prince.

The case has cast heightened scrutiny on MBS after MEE revealed that at least seven of the 15 suspects who flew to Istanbul the day Khashoggi was killed were members of his personal security detail.

Body dissolved in acid: Turkish source

The Washington Post also reported this week that Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi’s body was dissolved in acid on the consulate grounds or at the nearby home of the Saudi consul general.

“Khashoggi’s body was not in need of burying,” a senior Turkish official told the newspaper, speaking on condition of anonymity.

MEE previously reported that Turkish investigators were examining the possibility that Khashoggi's body was dissolved in acid or burnt.

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How the Saudi narrative on Khashoggi evolved

However, following Saudi claims that a "local collaborator" was given the body to dispose of, Turkish investigators turned their attention to the possibility Khashoggi's remains could be found in woodland on the city's outskirts and a town some 90km from Istanbul.

The Turkish authorities now believe that was "Saudi misdirection" and the chief Saudi prosecutor told his Turkish counterpart that such a person does not exist, MEE understands.

Investigators are also looking into the possibility that part, or all, of Khashoggi's remains were taken to Riyadh in a private jet by one of MBS's bodyguards.