A former senior Saudi intelligence official said in a US lawsuit Thursday that the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tried to have him assassinated in 2018, just weeks after dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey.
Saad Aljabri said Prince Mohammed sent a “hit squad” to Canada, where he lives in exile, to kill and dismember him in the same way that Khashoggi was murdered allegedly by the prince’s agents in Istanbul in October 2018. Prince Mohammed ever since his rise to power has suffered much controversy.
A lawsuit by Saad Aljabri against the Saudi crown prince and other Saudi officials, which was brought in a district court in Washington DC, claims that the Saudi state launched a campaign to target the former high-ranking official in Canada because he was viewed as a threat to Prince Mohammed’s relationship with the US and his eventual ascendancy to the throne.
Aljabri could sour relationship between Riyadh and Washington
“To fulfil his murderous desire, Defendant bin Salman has personally orchestrated an attempted extrajudicial killing of Dr. Saad, an attempt that remains ongoing to this day,” Aljabri charged in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington.
Aljabri said that Prince Mohammed wants him dead because he is close to rival prince and former Saudi security chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and because he has intimate knowledge of Prince Mohammed’s activities that would sour the close relationship between Washington and Riyadh.
Aljabri is a former intelligence official who has been praised by former colleagues in the US and UK for helping to keep westerners safe amid the threat of al-Qaida. The complaint includes references to two previous alleged plots – one against synagogues in Chicago and one involving a plan to blow up two cargo planes heading for the US – that were allegedly thwarted thanks to Aljabri’s assistance.
Saudi Arabia has sentenced five men to death for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the cover-up continues.The kingdom hasn't even named those it sentenced, and it still refuses to say what it did with Jamal's body or return it to the family https://t.co/02w6g4eyB2
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) December 23, 2019
The complaint includes several jaw-dropping and unverified details about the alleged plot to target Aljabri, including a claim that a team of Saudi assassins were sent to Canada to kidnap the former Saudi official just two weeks after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Mohammed has suffered controversy before in the Khashoggi case.
Former Saudi intelligence official had hit squad sent after him
“Dr. Saad is uniquely positioned to existentially threaten Defendant bin Salman’s standing with the US government. That is why Defendant bin Salman wants him dead,” the suit said.
Aljabri was already abroad in June 2017 when Prince Mohammed seized power in the palace, removing Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and placing him under house arrest.
After his children in Riyadh were hit with travel restrictions, Aljabri refused entreaties to return, fearing he would meet the same fate as Prince Nayef, and moved to Canada where a son lives.
Saudi Arabia's "trial" and "investigation" of Jamal Khashoggi's murder has been a complete sham.
Executing five nameless, faceless men without transparency and an investigation into the regime's responsibility is not justice. It's just more bloodshed. https://t.co/loXin9B1hO
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) December 23, 2019
Since then Riyadh tried unsuccessfully to use Interpol to gain custody of him. And he says they sent a team of agents to the United States to track him down.
Thirteen days after Khashoggi’s murder on 2 October 2018, a team from what Aljabri called in the lawsuit Prince Mohammed’s “personal mercenary group, the Tiger Squad,” arrived in Canada.
The team, he claimed, included forensic specialists and equipment similar to the group that dismembered Khashoggi’s body, which was never found.
He said Canadian security became suspicious and disrupted the plot, but that efforts to kill him continue, and that Prince Mohammed obtained a religious fatwa, or command, for his death from clerics.
Dr. Saad’s children may be in danger
“That combination of deep knowledge and enduring trust by top US officials is why there is virtually no one defendant bin Salman wants dead more than Dr Saad,” the legal claim said.
In March his two children in Saudi Arabia were taken away and haven’t been heard from.
The suit against Prince Mohammed plus 12 named and another 11 unidentified people was filed as a claim of attempted extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
Aljabri asked the court for unspecified damages for “severe emotional distress,” anxiety and hypertension, and other ailments, and punitive damages against the defendants as well. The former official levied serious allegation against Prince Mohammed, embroiling him further into controversy.
He also asked the court to declare that the defendants violated the “law of nations” under the Alien Tort Statute.
“This court can begin the process of holding defendant bin Salman and his agents accountable for their actions,” the suit said.
Contacted by AFP, the Saudi Embassy in Washington indicated it did not have a comment on the suit at the moment.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk