New York: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was murdered last October, if the latter did not return to the Kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, a New York Times report said.
The conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the Crown Prince considered killing Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington post, long before a team of Saudi operatives murdered him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and dismembered his body using a bone saw, the report said on Thursday.
According to informed officials, the conversation that took place between Prince Mohammed and the aide, Turki Aldakhil in September 2017, has been transcribed and analysed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and other American intelligence agencies are now sifting through years of the Crown Prince’s voice and text communications that the NSA routinely intercepted and stored, The New York Times quoted the officials as saying.
Also in September 2017, Khashoggi began writing opinion columns for The Washington Post, and top Saudi officials discussed ways to lure him back to the country, the officials said.
In the conversation, Prince Mohammed said that if Khashoggi could not be enticed back to Saudi Arabia, then he should be returned by force.
If neither of those methods worked, the Crown Prince said, then he would go after the slain journalist “with a bullet”.
At the time of the conversation, Prince Mohammed was in the midst of consolidating power in the Kingdom, The New York Times said.
Just months earlier, his father, King Salman, elevated him to second in line to the throne.
Later that year, Prince Mohammed ordered hundreds of influential businessmen and Saudi royals, some who had been considered contenders to the throne, locked up at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where they were interrogated.
Days before the conversation with Aldakhil, according to the informed officials, Prince Mohammed complained to another aide, Saud al-Qahtani, that Khashoggi had grown too influential.
The Crown Prince Mohammed said that Khashoggi’s articles and Twitter posts were tarnishing the his image as a forward-thinking reformer.
Responding to the report, Aldakhil said on Thursday night: “These allegations are categorically false. They appear to be a continuation of various efforts by different parties to connect His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to this horrific crime. These efforts will prove futile.”
A Saudi official also issued a statement saying: “We again deny any involvement on the part of the Crown Prince in the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Meanwhile, UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard presented preliminary findings on Thursday saying that Khashoggi’s murder was the consequence of a plan hatched by officials of the Kingdom.
“Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows prime facie case that Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” Callamard said.
Callamard, who travelled to Turkey with a team that included a serious-crime investigator and a forensics expert, said she found that Saudi Arabia was hindering and undermining Turkish authorities’ efforts to elucidate the circumstances of the journalist’s death.
She said her team will continue their investigation in the upcoming weeks and she urged anyone with any information about the assassination to come forward.
The team’s final report will be presented in June to the UN Human Rights Council.
Pakistan among the few countries to successfully turn tide against terrorism: Imran
Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. The PM stated that Pakistan is “among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism”.
Addressing the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Khan reiterated that Pakistan is ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. He added that growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. He further said that Pakistan will remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives.
Speaking on Afghanistan, PM Khan said that “the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution”, adding that Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for “peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process”.
“Excellencies, The world stands at a crossroads. For the first time in ages, we are seeing the advent of a multi-polar global order. Epicentres of economic power and growth momentum are shifting eastwards. Regional integration is speeding up. Disruptive technologies are maturing. Threats from terrorism to climate change to narcotics to bacterial resistance continue to loom large,” said PM Khan.
“There are increasing barriers to open trade and innovation. Meanwhile, growing intolerance and Islamophobia are threatening to accentuate religious fault-lines. For its part, Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State-terrorism against people under illegal occupation. We are among the few countries to have successfully turned the tide against terrorism,” added the Pakistan PM.
“Pakistan remains ready to share its experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. We will also remain actively engaged in SCO’s counter-terrorism initiatives. Excellencies, There is finally a realization that the conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution. Pakistan is fully supporting efforts for peace and reconciliation, through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” further said Pakistan PM Khan.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated India’s strong stand against terrorism and appealed that countries supporting, aiding and funding terrorism must be held accountable. PM Modi highlighted the spirit and ideals of SCO to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism even as Khan looked on.
Without naming Pakistan, a country that has made state-sponsored terrorism its biggest policy to counter India for the last several decades, PM Modi said every country needs to come together, unite and fight against the scourge.
Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
Moscow: Vladimir Putin has said Russia will fight for an independent Palestinian state, and called for the issues of the Middle East to be resolved through peaceful means.
Despite international criticism over Russia’s own role in the Ukrainian crisis, Mr Putin was hailed last week by a St Petersburg Cossack group for his ability to “bring order and stop wars”.
In an address to the Arab League summit in Egypt on Saturday, Putin spoke against foreign intervention in countries’ internal disputes and spoke of the role Russia can play in diplomatic channels.
While Russia openly opposes the stance of US-backed Israel on the Gaza crisis, its position in the Middle East is complicated. Putin is one of Iran’s key allies, but as he spoke on Saturday the core nations of the Arab League engaged in air strikes on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
His attempts to urge a peaceful solution in Yemen haven’t had much of an immediate impact – on Sunday, the Arab League agreed to the creation of a joint military forces comprised of around 40,000 elite troops to resolve the future “challenges” of the Middle East.
As one of the “Quartet” entities involved in Middle East peace negotiations, Russia has played a key role in talks about the fallout of last year’s Gaza crisis.
He told the summit this weekend: “Palestinians have the right to establish an independent and habitable state with a capital in East Jerusalem.
“Russia will continue to contribute to achieving this goal through bilateral and multilateral channels,” he said.
Trump claims Queen had fun with him during his UK visit
Washington: US President Donald Trump claimed that Britain
s Queen Elizabeth II had more fun during his state visit to the UK than in the last 25 years."I have such a great relationship, and we were laughing and having fun. And her people said she hasnt had so much fun in 25 years. Then I got criticized for it because they said we were having too much fun,” the Hill quoted Trump as saying.
Trump`s comments come two weeks after his first state visit to London to meet the 93-year-old monarch. During his three-day visit, the president dined with the Queen, members of the British royal family and other British politicians at Buckingham Palace.
Trump and the queen reaffirmed the importance of the Washington-London relationship during an elaborate state banquet.”On behalf of all Americans I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long cherished and truly remarkable reign of her majesty, the queen,” Trump said in his toast during the event.
He also met Prime Minister Theresa May. Opposing Trump
s visit, thousands of people hit the streets. TheTrump Baby` blimp was flown by the demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament, according to CNN, alongside a 16-foot robot version of Trump sitting on the toilet and tweeting.
Other activists came dressed as gorillas, with signs reading that they “only eat chlorinated chicken” — a nod to concerns in Britain that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US would mean a decline in food standards for imported produce.