The United States on pressed Saudi Arabia to take further measures after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as Washington faced growing criticism that it did not directly target Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
President Joe Biden on Friday released an intelligence report that found that Prince Mohammed approved the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, a US-based contributor to The Washington Post who was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was strangled to death and dismembered.
The report — classified under former president Donald Trump, a close ally of the Saudis — found that seven of the 15 members of the hit squad that flew to Istanbul came from the Rapid Intervention Force, which it said ‘exists to defend the crown prince’ and ‘answers only to him.’
‘We have urged Saudi Arabia to disband this group and then adopt institutional, systemic reforms and controls to ensure that anti-dissident activities and operations cease and cease completely,’ state department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
‘We have made crystal clear — and will continue to do so — that the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi 28 months ago remains unacceptable conduct,’ Price said.
He also called on Saudi Arabia to act on other fronts including lifting a travel ban on Loujain al-Hathloul, an advocate for women’s right to drive in the ultra-conservative kingdom who was provisionally freed in January after nearly three years in jail.
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on the Rapid Intervention Force — meaning any US transactions with it will be a crime — and said it was banning entry into the United States of 76 Saudis under a new policy against foreign officials who harass dissidents.