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Saturday 21 September 2019

'Smoking saw' points to prince in Khashoggi death, say senators

‘You’d have to be blind’: Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
‘You’d have to be blind’: Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Nick Allen in Washington

Senior Republican senators have turned on Donald Trump over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

They say a "smoking saw" in the case points to Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman being behind the killing.

The senators delivered their verdict - which contradicts the president's claim that no conclusive proof has been given - after a private briefing on the evidence from Gina Haspel, the CIA director.

It increased the prospect of financial consequences for the kingdom, such as the cutting off of US military aid for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Mr Khashoggi, a 'Washington Post' journalist and fierce critic of the crown prince, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Lindsey Graham, a senator who once opposed Mr Trump but has now become a close ally of his, said: "There's not a smoking gun - there's a smoking saw."

That was a reference to the bone saw said to have been used to dismember Mr Khashoggi's body.

Mr Graham added: "You have to be wilfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS [the crown prince].

"I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I cannot support arm sales to Saudi Arabia as long as he's in charge."

The senator added that the crown prince was a "wrecking ball" and the US should come down on the kingdom like a "ton of bricks".

Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: "I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder... In front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes."

Asked if he meant convicted of a murder charge, Mr Corker said: "Yes."

Last week, senators voted to move ahead with a resolution that could cut US assistance for the military campaign in Yemen. Mr Trump has been more neutral over who was responsible for Mr Khashoggi's death. Two weeks ago, the president said: "It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!"

Saudi Arabia has denied the crown prince was involved in the murder and has blamed Ahmed al-Asiri, the former deputy intelligence chief. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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