US announces penalties for 21 Saudis, the first reaction from the Trump administration since journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Pompeo says this will "not be the last word on the matter from the US."

US President Donald Trump gives remarks during the White House State Leadership Day Conference for local officials of Alaska, Hawaii and California at the White House in Washington, US. October 23, 2018.
US President Donald Trump gives remarks during the White House State Leadership Day Conference for local officials of Alaska, Hawaii and California at the White House in Washington, US. October 23, 2018. (Leah Millis / Reuters)

President Donald Trump criticised the Saudi operation that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling it one of the "worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups," as his administration restricted visas for 21 Saudis.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump said he expects a full report on the killing soon. But, the US president said, "They had a very bad original concept" and it was "carried out poorly."

He called the events after Khashoggi's death "the worst cover-up ever."

The Saudi writer for The Washington Post and former royal family insider who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman went missing from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He was confirmed dead on October 20.

Visas revoked

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration was revoking the visas of Saudi officials implicated in the death of the writer. 

Some of the individuals involved in the killing have been identified and include people from the intelligence services, royal court, foreign ministry and other Saudi ministries, Pompeo announced at a Department of State news conference on Tuesday. 

Pompeo also said the applicability of Global Magnitsky Sanctions was being reviewed against certain Saudi individuals. The law allows Washington to sanction government officials implicated in rights abuses anywhere in the world.

"These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable," Pompeo told reporters.

"We are making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of action to silence Mr Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence," he said.

"We continue to maintain a strong partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, neither the president nor I am happy with this situation; our shared strategic interests with Saudi Arabia remain. We continue to view as achievable the twin imperatives of protecting America and holding accountable those responsible for the killing of Mr Khashoggi."

Minutes later, state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed 21 Saudis will have their visas revoked or will be made ineligible for US visas over Khashoggi's death.

The visa revocations are the first punitive measures taken by the administration against the Saudis since Khashoggi disappeared.

Denials amid investigation

Saudi Arabia has detained 18 people in connection with Khashoggi's death. 

The kingdom claims Khashoggi died "accidentally in a brawl" at the consulate.  

But Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer and say Saudi officials had planned the killing for days. 

"The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was premeditated," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday in Ankara at a meeting of Turkey's governing Justice and Development (AK) Party. 

At the Oval Office, Trump commented that Erdogan was "pretty rough" on Saudi Arabia in his remarks. He told reporters he wanted to get all the facts on Khashoggi's death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before agreeing with Erdogan's assessment.

Trump, who sent his CIA director to Turkey to discuss the issue, said he expected to have a report pretty soon. 

CIA Director Gina Haspel has sought to hear a purported audio recording of his torture and murder, four sources familiar with her mission told Reuters.

Neither US nor allied government agencies have been granted access as of late Monday to such evidence, Western security officials said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies