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US to release report fingering Saudi prince in Khashoggi murder

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Mohammed bin Salman

The US director of national intelligence is expected to release a damning report Friday that fingers Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the brutal murder and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

The classified report is believed to say that, based on intelligence collected by the CIA and other spy bodies, the kingdom’s de facto leader directed the assassination of the respected US-based writer in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The prince has steadfastly denied a part in the murder, even as some of his closest advisors have been shown to be deeply involved.

Intent on strengthening relations with Riyadh, previous US president Donald Trump’s administration avoided making the report public or naming Prince Mohammed in the case.

Its declassification and release comes just as President Joe Biden endeavors to reset US relations in the Middle East and return principles of human rights to a prominent position in US policy.

Ahead of the release, Biden spoke on the telephone Thursday with Saudi King Salman, Prince Mohammed’s father, in their first discussion since he became president five weeks ago.

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A White House statement on the call did not mention the Khashoggi report, but Biden said Wednesday that he had read it.

– High confidence –

A respected veteran Saudi journalist and editor, Khashoggi was in self-exile and residing in the United States, writing articles critical of the crown prince when he was assassinated on October 2, 2018.

The 59-year-old writer had been told by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States to go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul if he wanted to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage to a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz.

There, he was killed and his body dismembered by a team sent from Riyadh under the direction of a top aide to Prince Mohammed, Saud al-Qahtani.

Just one month after the murder, the US Central Intelligence Agency concluded with high confidence that Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination, according to The Washington Post.

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But, determined to maintain strong relations with Riyadh, Trump would not publicly hold the Saudi strongman responsible, even as the US government demanded the perpetrators be punished.

According to the Post — for which Khashoggi regularly wrote — US intelligence had several key pieces of evidence pointing to Prince Mohammed.

One was a phone call from Prince Mohammed to his brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, that was monitored by US intelligence.

In that call, Prince Mohammed instructed his brother to tell Khashoggi to go to Istanbul to obtain the documents he needed for his marriage.

Another piece of evidence was a recording of the murder from inside the Istanbul consulate made by Turkish intelligence, which made clear what happened, helped identify the participants and showed communications between them and Riyadh.

– Denials –

The prince has denied ordering or knowing about the plot to kill Khashoggi.

But few observers of Saudi Arabia believe the murder could have taken place without the knowledge of Prince Mohammed, a calculating strongman who has jailed a number of critics and locked up competing factions in the royal family.

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Under heavy pressure from the United States and the international community, the Saudi government put some of the perpetrators on trial.

The closed-door trial exonerated the two officials widely seen as the masterminds: Qahtani, the royal court’s media adviser, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri. Both are part of Prince Mohammed’s inner circle.

But five unnamed defendants were sentenced to death and three others given stiff prison terms.

Nine months later, however, the death sentences were withdrawn by the court and replaced with sentences of up to 20 years.

Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders both branded the case a “parody of justice.”

But it assuaged the Trump administration, whose main action was to place 17 suspects in the case, including Qahtani but not Assiri, on its sanctions blacklist.

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‘Israel has the right to self-defense’ — Psaki

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PHOTO: White House press secretary Jen Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has stated that “Israel has the right to self-defense” against Gaza-based Islamist terrorists who have rained down over 2,000 rockets on southern and central Israel since Monday.

She noted that Hamas is a terrorist group, but stressed that the US is focused on de-escalation.

“It’s important to remember that Hamas is a terrorist group. They don’t represent the views, the families and the Palestinian people who are suffering. There’s no excuse for the rockets,” Psaki told journalists.

Meanwhile, US Secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr landed in Israel on Friday, as part of Washington’s efforts to defuse the most intense fight between Gaza-based Islamist terrorists and the Jewish state since 2014.

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Barka da Sallah to Muslim faithfuls who don’t behave like terrorists — Kanu

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Nnamdi Kanu, rights activist and leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB)

Rights activist, Nnamdi Kanu, has congratulated Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr – one of the holiest occasions on the Islamic calendar.

Kanu, in a message Thursday, noted that his message and best wishes are directed to “Muslim faithfuls who don’t think and behave like the terrorists” who he said are presiding over the government in Nigeria.

“May the peace & blessings of your God Allah be and abide with you always,” said the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.

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Rocket attacks: Nigerian govt frowns, send message to Israel

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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s federal government has expressed its displeasure with the rocket attacks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in Gaza, Hamas.

In a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye, ​​Nigeria’s federal government called on both sides to defuse hostilities.

“The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to state that the Federal Government of Nigeria is watching with great concern the unfolding developments with Israel and the State of Palestine and urges both parties to see reason and de-escalate the hostilities,” said Nwonye.

“The Federal Government further urges the two parties to remain committed to the two-state solution and, in the meantime, guarantee the rights of all citizens to live in peace and dignity.”

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