Court documents filed in Washington DC by a former Saudi intelligence official living in exile in Canada allege a Saudi hit squad was sent to kill him, less than two weeks after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
Dr. Saad Al-Jabri, a former Major-General in the Saudi Ministry of the Interior and advisor to the ousted Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, has accused multiple Saudi officials of sending a hit squad, known as “Tiger Squad” to kill him. Among the accused is the current Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), a Saudi Major General and former spokesperson for the Saudi coalition in Yemen; and Mishal Fahad al-Sayed, who worked alongside the man who is believed to have dismembered Khashoggi. MBS is also believed to have ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
The documents suggest that Dr. Al-Jabri is being targeted because of the “sensitive, humiliating and damning information” about MBS that he was privy to during his time within Saudi government institutions, including political scheming, corruption, and the creation of the Tiger Squad by MBS. This is information that could damage the regime’s reputation with the US government. Dr. Al-Jabri had a close relationship with the US intelligence services as part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, and so any disclosure he made would have weight in Washington DC. Dr. Al-Jabri went into exile in Canada after the ousting of the former Crown Prince in favour of MBS, and has been protected by private security ever since.
In March of this year, two of his children were detained in Saudi Arabia. The court documents allege that this was intended to lure him back to Saudi Arabia so that he can be killed. On the 7th March, a letter signed by the US State Department called for the immediate release of his children.
According to the documents, the plot failed. While travelling on tourist visas, the members of Tiger Squad denied knowing each other when asked, but during a secondary screening by Canadian border officials, a photo showing all of the men together was discovered. Suspicions having been aroused, the men were sent back to Saudi Arabia. Bill Blair, Canada’s Federal Minister of Public Safety, whilst declining to comment on this specific case, said the Canadian government was “aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living in Canada.”
Despite this failure, Dr. Al-Jabri alleges that MBS is continuing to attempt to have him killed. He claims that MBS has secured a fatwa, a religious ruling, that allows Dr. Al-Jabri to be killed.
Saudi Arabia has long had issues concerning human rights abuses. Amnesty International alleges that such abuses include repression of women and the Shia minority, an extensive use of the death penalty, unfair trials, limited rights to freedom of expression, and the targeting of those defending human rights. The Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one such critic of the Saudi regime, who was assassinated and dismembered within the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA later concluded that Khashoggi’s assassination was ordered by MBS. Saudi Arabia currently holds the Presidency of the G20, represented by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Their ambassador to the UN in Geneva was also elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee in 2015, and in 2019, Saudi Arabia also signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China’s treatment of the Uighur minority, which has been argued meets the UN definition of genocide.
It is unlikely that there will be any long-lasting damage to the Saudi regime and MBS. Very little has changed since the killing of Jamil Khashoggi, and their continued membership of international organisations such as the G20 and OPEC demonstrates their continued influence in world affairs. Their relationship with individual nations, specifically the United States, will also continue as normal as they remain a key US ally in the region. Once against Suddam Hussein’s Iraq, and now against Iran, with whom the US has had strained relations with following the killing of General Soleimani in January. In December it is believed that Saudi Arabia paid the US $500 million in order to keep US troops in the country. Donald Trump claimed that the payment was in fact $1 billion. Relations with the UK will also likely continue as normal, with arms sales to the country having recently resumed despite fears that these weapons are being used to commit war crimes in Yemen.