French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) give a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 10, 2018. (Photo by YOAN VALAT / POOL / AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to Saud al-Qahtani, his closest adviser who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, quoting a highly classified CIA assessment.

The messages were sent in the hours before and after the journalist’s death on October 2, WSJ said, citing electronic intercepts and other clandestine information it reviewed.

In August 2017, bin Salman had also told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the CIA intercepts.

Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom’s leadership who lived in Virginia in the United States, had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get the papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

But he was killed and dismembered inside the Consulate, shortly after he arrived there on October 2.

The CIA last month concluded that Prince Mohammed had likely ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, but President Donald Trump, who dislikes the Washington Post, has emerged as the most ardent defender of Prince bin Salman, saying “maybe he did; and maybe he didn’t.”

“The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by the Journal state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” It added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”,” WSJ said.


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