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ISTANBUL -- A Turkish court issued arrest warrants Wednesday for two close aides to Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's crown prince, after prosecutors accused the aides of helping plan the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey's state-run news agency said.

The aides, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, are believed to be in Saudi Arabia, and there is little chance the Saudi government will surrender the men to Turkish authorities. Rather, the warrants appeared to be part of a continuing effort by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pressure Saudi Arabia into revealing more details about Khashoggi's killing, as well as to isolate the crown prince.

Also Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators filed a resolution to condemn Mohammed as responsible for Khashoggi's killing.

"This resolution -- without equivocation -- definitively states that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement accompanying the release of the resolution.

The resolution put forward by Graham and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., comes just one day after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed leading senators about the details of the agency's assessment that Mohammed ordered and monitored the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Senior officials in President Donald Trump's administration have insisted that no "smoking gun" evidence shows Mohammed's direct involvement. Saudi Arabia says that while its investigation into the killing is still underway, it has already absolved the crown prince.

Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post and a sometime critic of Mohammed, was killed by a team of Saudi agents soon after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His body was dismembered, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors. His remains have not been found.

On Wednesday, the United Nations human-rights chief, Michele Bachelet, called for an international investigation into the killing. "I do believe it is really needed in terms of ensuring what really happened and who are the [people] responsible for that awful killing," Bachelet said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the Reuters news agency.

Turkey also has raised the possibility of an international investigation while aggressively pursuing its own inquiry. Prosecutors requested warrants for al-Assiri and al-Qahtani on Tuesday based on a "strong suspicion" that they were "among the planners" of Khashoggi's death, according to excerpts of the prosecution's application that were provided by a Turkish official.

The prosecutors' language placed responsibility for the killing in the crown prince's inner circle and left open the possibility that other senior Saudi officials were involved in its planning.

Al-Assiri, an air force officer, served as spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen before he was appointed deputy chief of Saudi intelligence in 2017 -- a promotion that was said to reflect his close ties to the crown prince.

Al-Qahtani, a friend and close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed, was regarded as the royal court's chief enforcer, promoting the kingdom's aggressive policies on social media and personally supervising a crackdown on government opponents and dissidents. They included Khashoggi, who received several calls from al-Qahtani trying to persuade the journalist to end his exile in the United States and return to Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi's friends said.

Information for this article was contributed by Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post.

A Section on 12/06/2018

Print Headline: Turkish warrants name Saudis

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