Disappearance of a dissident journalist puts young Saudi prince, a Trump ally, under a dark cloud

For The Los Angeles Times

It was only six months ago that Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince was feted in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Manhattan and Washington as a reformist monarch-in-waiting, already putting a modernist stamp on an intensely traditional — and fabulously wealthy — desert kingdom.

Now the image of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is tarnished by growing suspicion of Saudi state involvement in what may have been a brutal assassination of a critic. And the deepening mystery leaves the Trump administration, which has embraced the House of Saud more warmly than has any other Western leader, in an increasingly awkward spot.

The crisis was sparked by the disappearance and possible killing and dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known and well-connected Saudi journalist, self-exiled in the United States, who had for months sounded the alarm over increasingly autocratic moves by the crown prince.

On Oct. 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain some routine paperwork and has not been seen since. A flood of media reports have cited Turkish investigators as saying they believe he was killed soon after entering the building and his corpse cut to pieces and disposed of by an elite Saudi security team.

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