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Pence: US will hold those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder accountable

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U.S. President Donald Trump

Saudi officials have said a team of 15 Saudi nationals were sent to confront Khashoggi at the consulate and that he was accidentally killed in a chokehold by men who were trying to force him to return to the kingdom.

This new development contradicts Saudi's statement which has always maintained that Prince Salman has not been involved or even had any knowledge of the operation. After first insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, Saudi authorities said he was killed in an argument that degenerated into a brawl before finally accepting what Turkey had said virtually from the start - that he was killed in a premeditated hit. A bipartisan group of senators, including Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), last month called on President Trump to determine whether the Saudi government had violated the act and to "consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest-ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia".

Earlier reports said American intelligence agencies concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, according to a USA official familiar with that assessment. But it said he made the call at the direction the crown prince, and the call was intercepted by US intelligence.

Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, often criticised the royal family.

The statement also urged Turkey to reciprocate the Kingdom's approach by providing the evidence in the case and meet Saudi demands to form a joint mechanism for cooperation on the investigation. Tim Kaine, D-Va., referring to Saudi explanations that have changed repeatedly since the killing.

Turkish officials have said the killing was intentional and have been pressuring Saudi Arabia to extradite those responsible to stand trial.

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Human Rights First also called the sanctions "the right decision".

The administration this past week penalised 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American politicians have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures. "This was a rogue operation", Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said.

Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates intervened in the conflict against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in 2015 in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio recording, supplied by the Turkish government, would not affect his response to the October 2 killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who had been critical of the Saudi royal family. Al-Assiri was sacked for ordering Khashoggi's forced return to the kingdom, the attorney general said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said on Sunday he had no doubt about MbS' involvement in ordering the murderof Khashoggi.

The Treasury statement did not name Assiri among those sanctioned.

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