President Donald Trump of the United States of America has called Saudi Arabia’s response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi “the worst cover-up ever”.
He added that whoever organised the plot “should be in big trouble”.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, shortly afterwards, that the US “will punish those responsible” and is revoking visas of 21 identified suspects.
The US has faced pressure to toughen its stance on Saudi Arabia, a key ally.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mr Trump said: “They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was the worst in the history of cover-ups.”
“Whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble.”
The Saudi kingdom has provided conflicting accounts of what happened to Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor. After weeks of maintaining he was still alive, the authorities now say the 59-year-old was murdered in a rogue operation after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Trump’s criticisms of Saudi officials are his strongest so far, but he has continued to highlight the kingdom’s importance as a US ally.
Trump addressed the possible involvement of senior Saudi royals in the killing and said he did not believe King Salman had prior knowledge of the crime.
When asked about the possible role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the president replied: “Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.”