Some of the targeted officials served as aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters/File photo)
The United States has imposed sanctions on 17 citizens of Saudi Arabia it says were involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The individuals were penalised "for serious human rights abuses resulting from their roles" in the killing of the prominent Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, the US State Department said.
"Our action today is an important step in responding to Khashoggis killing," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The 17 individuals held positions in the Saudi Royal Court, the US State Department said, as well as in Saudi government ministries and offices.
The targeted individuals are:
- Saud al-Qahtani
- Maher Mutreb
- Salah Tubaigy
- Meshal Albostani
- Naif Alarifi
- Mohammed Alzahrani
- Mansour Abahussain
- Khalid Alotaibi
- Abdulaziz Alhawsawi
- Waleed Alsehri
- Thaar Alharbi
- Fahad Albalawi
- Badr Alotaibi
- Mustafa Almadani
- Saif Alqahtani
- Turki Alsehri
- Mohammed Alotaibi
Some of the individuals were also aides to powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the time of Khashoggi's killing.
Al-Qahtani was a top confidant and senior adviser to bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, and held vast influence in the crown prince's inner circle. He once said he would never do anything without his boss's approval, referring to MBS and Saudi King Salman.
Mohammed Al-Otaibi was the Saudi consul general to Istanbul. He led early efforts by Saudi Arabia to convince journalists and critics that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive on 2 October.
Four days after the murder, Otaibi, who is believed to have personally witnessed the crime, invited Reuters journalists into the consulate to show them that Khashoggi was not there.
"If those who say he was kidnapped are focusing on his being in the mission, these are just rumors that have no proof," he told the news agency on 6 October. "And we unfortunately regret some of the statements that have been made by Turkish officials who insist that (Khashoggi is) in the consulate … without it being built on facts."
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Mutreb was an MBS aide who had been spotted in the crown princes entourage during diplomatic trips abroad. On Thursday, the US Treasury Department described Mutreb as a "subordinate" of Qahtani.
He was also a member of a 15-person hit team sent to Turkey to kill Khashoggi. In an audio recording of Khashoggi's murder, Mutreb could be heard telling an aide of the crown prince to "tell your boss" after the killing, the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Tubaigy, another sanctioned individual, was the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department. Turkish officials told MEE last month that Tubaigy was tasked with cutting up Khashoggi's body.
He carried out the dismemberment while listening to music, according to an audio recording of the crime that is in the possession of Turkish intelligence officials.
“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, a Turkish source told MEE.
Meanwhile, the names of Fahad Albalawi, Mohammed Alzahrani, Abdulaziz Alhawsawi and Khalid Alotaibi match those of individuals listed as Saudi royal guards on popular Saudi networking app Menom3ay, several US media outlets reported last month.
The US sanctions, imposed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, freeze these individuals' assets in the US. They also prohibit US citizens from entering into transactions with them.
"The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts, consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi," Pompeo said.