How the man behind Jamal Khashoggi murder ran the killing via Skype

He ran social media for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. He masterminded the arrest of masses of his nation’s elite. He detained a Lebanese prime minister. And, according to two intelligence assets, he ran journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal killing on the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by way of giving orders over Skype.

Saud al-Qahtani, a most sensible aide for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the fall guys as Riyadh tries to stem international outrage at Khashoggi’s loss of life. On Saturday, Saudi state media said King Salman had sacked Qahtani and four different officers over the killing carried out by way of a 15-man hit group.

But Qahtani’s affect in the crown prince’s entourage has been so vast over the last three years - his personal upward thrust tracking that of his boss - that it'll be exhausting for Saudi officers to paint Qahtani as the mastermind of the murder without also raising questions about the involvement of Prince Mohammed, according to a number of assets with links to the royal court docket.

“This episode won’t topple MbS, however it has hit his symbol which is able to take a very long time to be repaired if it ever does. The king is protective him,” one of the most assets with ties to the royal court docket said.

Qahtani himself once said he would by no means do anything without his boss’ approval.

“Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the trustworthy crown prince,” Qahtani tweeted closing summer.

Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters. His biography on Twitter modified in contemporary days from royal adviser to chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, a role he had held ahead of.

Prince Mohammed had no wisdom of the operation that ended in Khashoggi’s loss of life and “indisputably did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody”, a Saudi authentic said on Saturday. Officials in Riyadh may just no longer be reached for additional comment.

As the crisis has grown over the last three weeks, Saudi Arabia has modified its music on Khashoggi’s destiny, first denying his loss of life, then announcing he died all over a brawl on the consulate, and now attributing the loss of life to a chokehold.

A senior Saudi authentic advised Reuters that the killers had attempted to hide up what came about, contending that the truth used to be most effective now rising. The Turks reject that model of the story, announcing they have audio recordings of what came about.

The kingdom has survived different crises previously 12 months, together with the fallout of the crown prince’s short-lived kidnapping of Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri in 2017. Hariri, too, used to be verbally humiliated and beaten, according to 8 Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic assets. The man leading that interrogation: Saud al-Qahtani.

France intervened to loose Hariri, but Western capitals did not take Riyadh to activity for detaining a head of government - and Prince Mohammed emerged emboldened, according to these Saudi assets.

This time is different, with some Western capitals increasingly more critical of the murder and the Saudi explanation.

Germany has introduced it'll stop hands sales, whilst Britain, France and Germany issued a joint observation soliciting for an “pressing … clarification of precisely what came about Oct 2.”

President Donald Trump has swung between announcing he is unhappy with the Saudi investigation but also that he does no longer need to jeopardize U.S. hands sales to the rustic.

SKYPE CALL

To stem the fallout of the Khashoggi killing, the crown prince, regularly recognized by way of his initials MbS, allowed Qahtani to take the autumn, according to one source with reference to the Saudi royal court docket.

A 2nd senior Saudi authentic said Qahtani had been detained following his sacking by way of royal decree, but he endured to tweet afterwards. The assets with links to the royal court docket said he used to be no longer believed to be beneath arrest.

In the Khashoggi killing, Qahtani used to be present as he has been in different key moments of MbS’s management. This time, regardless that, his presence used to be digital.

Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi journalist regularly critical of Saudi Arabia and its management, walked into the Istanbul consulate at round 1 pm on Oct 2, to select up some documents that might allow him to marry.

Turkish safety assets say he used to be straight away seized within the consulate by way of 15 Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets simply hours ahead of.

According to at least one high-ranking Arab source with get admission to to intelligence and links to individuals of Saudi Arabia’s royal court docket, Qahtani used to be beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate by means of Skype.

He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the telephone. According to the Arab and Turkish assets, Khashoggi responded Qahtani’s insults with his personal. But he used to be no match for the squad, which integrated most sensible safety and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court docket.

A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one level Qahtani advised his men to cast off Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the canine”, the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani recommended.

It is not clear if Qahtani watched all of the complaints, which the high-ranking Arab source described as a “bungled and botched operation”.

The Arab source and the Turkish intelligence source said the audio of the Skype call is now in the possession of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The assets say he is refusing to unlock it to the Americans.

Erdogan said on Sunday he would unlock details about the Turkish investigation all over a weekly speech on Tuesday. Three Turkish officers reached by way of Reuters declined to comment forward of that speech.

The senior Saudi authentic who laid out the authentic model of occasions – that Khashoggi had were given into a struggle – said he had no longer heard about Qahtani showing by means of Skype, but that the Saudi investigation used to be ongoing.

QAHTANI’S RISE

Qahtani, 40, has earned a reputation at home as each a violent enforcer of princely whims and as a strident nationalist. In blogs and on social media, some liberal Saudi journalists and activists dubbed him the Saudi Steve Bannon for his aggressive manipulation of the news media and behind-the-scenes strategizing.

Qahtani wrote odes on Twitter to the royal family beneath the pen name Dari, because of this predator in Arabic. Some of his warring parties on social media call him Dalim, a determine in Arabic folklore who rose from being a lowly servant to much higher heights.

According to his biography on his Twitter account, Qahtani studied legislation and made the rank of captain in the Saudi air force. After launching a blog, he caught the attention of Khaled al-Tuwaijri, the previous head of the royal court docket, who hired him in the early 2000s to run an digital media military tasked with protective Saudi Arabia’s symbol , according to a source with ties to the royal court docket.

Tuwaijri is beneath space arrest and may just no longer be reached for comment.

Qahtani rose to additional prominence after latching onto Prince Mohammed, who used to be a part of his father Salman’s court docket as Riyadh governor, then crown prince and after all king in 2015

Tasked with countering alleged Qatari affect on social media, Qahtani used Twitter to assault grievance of the kingdom usually and Prince Mohammed particularly. He also ran a WhatsApp workforce with native newspaper editors and outstanding journalists, dictating the royal court docket’s line.

When Riyadh led an economic boycott in opposition to Qatar in June 2017, Qahtani ramped up his assaults on the small Gulf state. Online, he urged Saudis to tweet the names of any individual appearing sympathy with Qatar beneath the Arabic hashtag “The Black List”.

The high-ranking Arab authentic and Saudi assets with ties to the royal court docket said Qahtani used to be MbS’s “bad cop” overdue closing 12 months when 200 people, together with Saudi princes, ministers and business tycoons, had been detained and put beneath space arrest on the Ritz Carlton in an anti-corruption sweep. Qahtani oversaw probably the most interrogations, the Arab authentic said.



A still symbol taken from CCTV video and got by way of TRT World claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, highlighted in a red circle by way of the source, as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul


A KIDNAPPING

The extent of Qahtani’s power is perhaps very best illustrated by way of the kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri closing 12 months, a number of of the Saudi and Arab diplomatic assets said.

The Saudis had been incensed on the incapacity of Hariri, a Sunni Muslim and a Saudi consumer, to stand up to their regional rival Iran and Hezbollah, the Shi’ite paramilitary motion that acts as Tehran’s spearhead in the region. Hariri belonged to the similar multi-party coalition executive as Hezbollah.

The Saudis had been specifically dismayed that Hariri had failed to deliver a message to a most sensible adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to forestall interfering in Lebanon and Yemen. Hariri claimed he had delivered the Saudi message, but an informer, planted by way of Qahtani in Hariri’s circle, gave the Saudis the mins of the meeting which confirmed that he had no longer carried out so.

The Saudis lured Hariri to Riyadh for a gathering with MbS. Upon his arrival on Nov. 3, 2017, there used to be no line-up of Saudi princes or officers, as would most often greet a first-rate minister on an authentic seek advice from. Hariri later received a choice that the meeting with the crown prince would happen the following day at a royal compound.

When Hariri arrived, he used to be ushered into a room where Qahtani used to be waiting for him with a security group, according to three Arab assets conversant in the incident. The safety group beat Hariri; Qahtani cursed at him and then pressured him to renounce as prime minister in a observation that used to be broadcast by way of a Saudi-owned TV channel.

“He (Qahtani) advised him you don't have any selection but to renounce and read this observation,” said one of the most assets. “Qahtani oversaw the interrogation and ill-treatment of Hariri.”

Another source said it used to be the intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron that secured his unlock following a global outcry.

Macron claimed credit score in May for ending the crisis, announcing an unscheduled stopover in Riyadh to persuade MbS, followed by way of an invitation to Hariri to come back to France, had been the catalyst to resolving it. Lebanese officers confirmed to Reuters that Macron’s quick intervention secured Hariri’s return.

Saudi officers may just no longer be reached for comment about the sequence of occasions or Qahtani’s involvement. French officers declined to comment when asked about Qahtani’s function.

AN OFFER TO RETURN HOME

At least three pals of Khashoggi advised Reuters that in the months after the journalist moved to Washington a 12 months ago he received a couple of telephone calls from MbS’s right-hand man urging him to go back to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi had balked, they said, fearing reprisals for his Washington Post columns and outspoken views.

Qahtani had attempted to reassure the previous newspaper editor that he used to be still well respected and had introduced the journalist a job as a consultant on the royal court docket, the chums said.

Khashoggi said that whilst he found Qahtani mild and polite all over the ones conversations, he did not trust him, one close pal advised Reuters. “Jamal advised me afterwards, ‘he thinks that I will be able to go back so that he can throw me in prison?”

The 2nd senior Saudi authentic confirmed that Qahtani had spoken to Khashoggi about returning home. The ambush in Istanbul turns out to had been differently to get him home.

How much did the crown prince learn about his depended on aide’s plan to abduct Khashoggi?

Most of the 15 hit-man group known by way of Turkish and Saudi authorities labored for the kingdom’s safety and intelligence services, army, executive ministries, royal court docket safety and air force. One of them, General Maher Mutreb, a senior intelligence officer, who is part of the protection group of Prince Mohammed, seemed in images with him on authentic visits earlier this 12 months to the United States and Europe.

The high-ranking Arab authentic and the Turkish intelligence source said it used to be Mutreb’s telephone that used to be used to dial in Qahtani whilst Khashoggi used to be being interrogated.

Reuters attempted to touch individuals of 15-man group but their telephones had been both switched off, on voicemail or now not in provider.

The Saudi authentic said Deputy Intelligence Chief General Ahmed al-Asiri put together the 15-man squad from the intelligence and safety forces. Asiri used to be one of the most five officers brushed aside on Saturday.

Another key determine used to be Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensic knowledgeable specialised in autopsies attached to the Saudi Ministry of Interior. His presence – provided with a bone-saw Turkish assets say used to be used to dismember the journalist – is tricky to give an explanation for in an operation Saudi officers now say used to be geared toward persuading Khashoggi to go back home.

It is tricky to consider that the crown prince will have no longer recognized about any such subtle operation, the Saudi assets with ties to the royal court docket say.


The Saudi authentic who spoke on Saturday said an current status order supplied authorization to “negotiate” with dissidents to go back home without requiring approval, but that the group involved with Khashoggi exceeded that authorization.


Another Saudi authentic with reference to the investigation said that Qahtani determined on his personal to organize Khashoggi’s kidnapping and that he asked Asiri to get a group together, but that their plans had long past unsuitable.


Qahtani’s final act is also to serve his boss by way of assuming the duty for the crisis that has hit Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi’s murder. The Saudi king has sacked Qahtani and ordered a restructuring of the general intelligence agency.


To head it, he named MbS.
How the man behind Jamal Khashoggi murder ran the killing via Skype How the man behind Jamal Khashoggi murder ran the killing via Skype Reviewed by kailash soni on October 23, 2018 Rating: 5
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