US slaps sanctions on elite Saudi unit over Khashoggi murder

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on an elite Saudi unit as well as a former intelligence official over their role in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Treasury Department said it would block assets and criminalize transactions with the Rapid Intervention Force, which a declassified intelligence report said was answerable to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as former intelligence official Ahmed al-Assiri.

“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation.”

President Joe Biden declassified an intelligence report that found that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the 2018 killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The report said that seven of the 15 members of the hit squad belonged to the Rapid Intelligence Force.

Assiri, part of the crown prince’s inner circle, was exonerated in a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia that was sharply criticized by rights groups.