The United States on Monday barred entry to 16 Saudi nationals over what it described as their role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department previously revoked the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others. The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes as the administration of President Donald Trump has faced pressure from Congress over its response to the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, which sparked unprecedented international scrutiny of the kingdomâ€™s human rights record.
Some US lawmakers have publicly stated that they suspect the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly responsible for the killing, based on the CIAâ€™s conclusions.
Earlier there were reports that some members of the team that brutally killed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi received training in the United States. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was killed and dismembered on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body has not been recovered yet.
After having denied the murder, Saudi Arabia said the operation was carried out by agents who were out of control. A trial of 11 suspects opened earlier this year in Saudi Arabia. But much of the case remains shrouded, beginning with the role of countryâ€™s powerful crown prince and de facto ruler Salman.
The US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), adopted a resolution naming the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as â€˜responsibleâ€™ for the murder, while US President Donald Trump has refused to publicly take a stand.
According to David Ignatius - Washington Post columnist, a Saudi who closely read the transcript of a recording from a bug placed in the consulate by Turkish intelligence said it indicates the plan was to kidnap Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia for detention and interrogation.
A note in the transcript says an injection was administered to Khashoggi, which the Saudi source said was probably a powerful sedative.
A bag was then placed over his head, and Khashoggi screamed: "I can't breathe, I have asthma. Don't do this." According to the Post, he died soon after.
The transcript describes a buzzing noise, perhaps an electric saw used to dismember the journalist.