US sanctions 17 Saudis allegedly implicated in Khashoggi murder

US sanctions 17 Saudis allegedly implicated in Khashoggi murder

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The Trump administration has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the first economic penalties from the U.S. over the brutal murder that has spawned a diplomatic crisis.

The 17 individuals, the U.S said, are the 15-man hit squad that traveled to Turkey to carry out the operation, the Saudi consul general in Istanbul, Turkey, where the killing took place, and a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It's the same list of people that the Saudis themselves have blamed and arrested for the killing, which the Saudi government at first denied, then called an accident, before labeling it a rogue operation.

With the sanctions, the U.S. freezes all assets for the men and blocks any U.S. persons from doing business with them. While that's unlikely to make much of a difference with the group all imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions do send a message that the U.S. takes the issue seriously.

"The United States continues to diligently work to ascertain all of the facts and will hold accountable each of those we find responsible in order to achieve justice for Khashoggi's fiancée, children, and the family he leaves behind," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. A State Department official added that the administration's own fact-finding investigation continues and will not end with the sanctions.

The central question is how high up the operation's orders came and whether the U.S. would be willing to directly implicate the crown prince, the strong-willed young leader who is the real power behind his father King Salman's throne. Republican and Democratic members of Congress have said there are signs he gave the command, but so far the administration has refused to go that far.

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"The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists," Mnuchin added in his statement, a rare rebuke from the Trump administration for the Saudis' human rights record.

This is a developing story. Please check back in for more updates.

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