US government says 'unanswered questions' over Saudi involvement in Khashoggi murder

It comes after reports the CIA believes the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist. On Saturday, the US State Department’s spokesman Heather Nauert refused to back the CIA’s alleged findings. Ms Nauert said: “Recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate.

“There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.”

The State Department confirmed it will continue investigating the murder of Mr Khashoggi, who was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consular on October 2.

But the White House would do so “while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia”, Ms Nauert said.

Saudi Arabia issued a strong denial after the Washington Post reported the CIA had concluded the Crown Prince ordered Mr Khashoggi’s assassination.

Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador to the US, is said by the Washington Post to have told Mr Khashoggi to go to the Saudi consulate prior to his death.

The Washington Post reports that Mr Khashoggi was given reassurances that he would be safe.

It was not clear if Mr Khalid was aware Mr Khashoggi would be killed, according to sources close to the case, the newspaper reported.

Khalid bin Salman denied this, tweeting: “I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason.

“I ask the US government to release any information regarding this claim.”

Donald Trump said on Saturday morning he had not yet been briefed on the CIA findings.

The US President said: “As of this moment, we were told that bin Salman did not play a role.

“We’re going to have to find out what they have to say.

He added: “We also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia. They give us a lot of jobs, they give us a lot of business, a lot of economic development.”

Saudi authorities have blamed his murder on a “rogue operation”.

But Turkish officials alleged a 15-man Saudi hit squad carried out the killing.

Five Saudi suspects among 11 people charged by Riyadh over the death could face the death penalty.

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