Wednesday, April 24, 2019 06:55:08 AM
The US State Department on Monday barred entry to 16 Saudi nationals over what it described as their role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes as the administration of President Donald Trump has faced pressure from Congress over its response to the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, which sparked unprecedented international scrutiny of the kingdom's human rights record.
A statement by the State Department listed the individuals and said that they had been designated under Section 7031© of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2019.
The section "provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States."The law requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members."
The State Department previously revoked the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others.
A critic of the Saudi regime, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body has never been recovered.
After having denied the murder, Saudi Arabia said the operation was carried out by agents who were out of control. A trial of 11 suspects opened earlier this year in Saudi Arabia.
But much of the case remains shrouded, beginning with the role of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman.
The US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the CIA, adopted a resolution in December naming the crown prince as "responsible" for the murder, while President Donald Trump has refused to publicly take a stand.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.CreditCreditPool photo by AndrewAP
Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.AP
Four killed in attack on US convoy in AfghanistanKabul (AFP) - Three US troops and a military contractor were killed in a roadside explosion Monday in the deadliest attack on American forces this year, casting a shadow over ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
The blast near Bagram Air Base is the latest to hit American forces amid an ongoing, US-led drive to forge a peace deal in Afghanistan, more than 17 years after the Taliban were ousted.
According to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in the country, the troops' convoy hit a roadside bomb that also wounded three US troops.
Earlier, the Taliban claimed to have conducted the attack when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle filled with explosives, saying "multiple invaders" had been killed. They added that one armoured personnel carrier had been "completely destroyed".
Bagram, America's largest air base in Afghanistan, is located about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Kabul.
The explosion took place around 5:40 pm (1310 GMT), according to Salim Noori, spokesman for police in the province of Parwan, which is home to Bagram.
The car bomb targeted a convoy of coalition soldiers, he told AFP.
Bagram district governor Abdul Shakoor Quddusi said a car bomber attacked an armoured vehicle carrying foreign forces close to a gate to the base.
Officials did not immediately release the names of those killed, in line with standard policy pending notification of next of kin, or the nationality of the contractor.
"The wounded service members were evacuated and are receiving medical care," Resolute Support said in a statement.
Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke tweeted his condolences, saying: "Our thoughts are with the families of the three service members killed today in Afghanistan."
The blast brings to seven the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year, compared to 12 killed in all of 2018.
Still, American casualties have fallen dramatically since the end of 2014, when Afghan forces took over from US-led NATO combat troops to secure the country.
The US now has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan-down from a peak of around 100,000 -- most of them deployed to train and advise Afghan counterparts.
Nearly 2,300 American soldiers have died and more than 20,400 have been wounded in the country since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001.
While parts of Afghanistan including Kabul have experienced something of a lull in attacks in recent weeks, US and Afghan forces have stepped up attacks on the Taliban across the country.
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