Saudi Crown Prince Accused of Sending Hitmen to Canada to Assassinate Ex-Intelligence Chief

Published August 7th, 2020 - 06:42 GMT
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a working breakfast with the U.S. president during the G20 Summit on June 29, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a working breakfast with the U.S. president during the G20 Summit on June 29, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Aljabri has been living in exile in Toronto since MBS took power in 2017.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a team of hit men to North America to assassinate a rival's top spy, after taking his children and his brother hostage, because he knew secrets about the young royal’s brutal palace coup that brought him to power, a new lawsuit alleges.

Saad Aljabri, who once held a cabinet-level intelligence post under deposed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has been living in exile in Toronto since bin Salman, also known as MBS, ruthlessly took power in 2017 and became the de facto ruler of the desert kingdom.

Aljabri on Wednesday filed a lawsuit with the District Court of the District of Columbia in which he alleges that ‘there is virtually no one that defendant bin Salman wants dead’ more than him.

The lawsuit names MBS as well as other senior members of the Saudi government. has reached out to the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, for comment.

Aljabri is a former top aide to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was edged out as heir to the throne in 2017 by MBS, the kingdom's de facto ruler.

Prince Nayef and Prince Ahmed - King Salman's brother - were also detained by authorities in March. They have been charged with treason.

They are among a wave of royals detained in recent months as MBS eliminates potential rivals to amass power unseen by previous rulers.

Aljabri, who relocated to Canada with six of his children, is known to have connections to senior American government officials and is viewed as ‘a longtime trusted partner of senior US intelligence officials.’

According to the 100-page court filing, Aljabri is a marked man in Riyadh because he is ‘uniquely positioned to existentially threaten defendant bin Salman’s standing with the US Government.’

The alleged plot to assassinate Aljabri evokes memories of the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a former Saudi regime insider who became a critic of MBS while writing columns for The Washington Post.

Khashoggi, a US resident, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, to receive marriage documents. It is believed that his body was dismembered and removed.

His remains have never been recovered.

The CIA believes that Khashoggi’s murder was ordered by MBS.

Aljabri alleges in the lawsuit that one of the reasons MBS wants him dead is because he provided intelligence to the CIA pointing to the crown prince as responsible for the death of Khashoggi.

The murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image.

Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed he had ordered the killing.

Saudi officials say he had no role, though in September MBS indicated some personal accountability, saying ‘it happened under my watch.’

Last December, Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death and three to jail over the murder of Khashoggi, but a United Nations investigator accused it of making a ‘mockery’ of justice by allowing the masterminds of last year’s killing to go free.

According to the lawsuit, MBS dispatched a team of agents to the US to locate Aljabri.

The agents managed to pinpoint Aljabri’s location by implanting malware on his cell phone, the lawsuit alleges.

Less than two weeks after the Khashoggi killing, a ‘personal mercenary group’ known as ‘Tiger Squad’ traveled to Canada to kill Aljabri, the complaint alleges.

The members of the ‘Tiger Squad’ were carrying ‘two bags of forensic tools.’

They also had ‘forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes - including an instruction in the exact same criminal evidence department as the forensic specialist who dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw.’

The lawsuit alleges that the team tried to enter Canada covertly while traveling on tourist visas.

They tried to enter the country individually while ‘seeking to avert the detection of Canadian border security by entering through separate kiosks.’

‘Upon approaching the kiosks, the Tiger Squad Defendants aroused the suspicion of Canadian border security officials, who asked them whether they knew each other,’ the lawsuit says.

‘They lied and said they did not. On information and belief, shortly thereafter, during secondary screening, Canadian officials found a photo of some of the Tiger Squad Defendants together, revealing their lie and thwarting their mission.’

According to the lawsuit, MBS remains determined to ‘once and for all...eliminate’ Aljabri.

The Saudi ruler ‘now plans to send agents directly through the United States to enter Canada “by land”,’ the lawsuit alleges.

MBS is alleged to have received the blessing of Saudi religious authorities who issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, calling for the death of Aljabri.

While MBS has allegedly been plotting Aljabri’s assassination, his government has also reportedly been using secret diplomatic backchannels in an attempt to pressure the Canadian government to extradite Aljabri.

According to The Globe and Mail, the Saudis tried to have Aljabri arrested by issuing a ‘red notice’ through Interpol, the international law enforcement organization, in late 2017.

When that didn’t work, the Saudis pressed the Canadian government in Ottawa to extradite Aljabri last fall.

But Canada does not have an extradition treaty with the Saudi regime.

In 2018, a Saudi delegation visiting Canada asked the government to turn him over. But at the time it was not known that Aljabri had asked for asylum in Canada.

Perhaps the most shocking allegation contained in the lawsuit involves Aljabri’s two children, who have allegedly been ‘seized’ by the Saudi government in an attempt to ‘lure [their father] back’ to the kingdom.

Aljabri is considered a close ally of the US intelligence community whose assistance saved American lives after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Last month, four US senators urged President Trump to help free Jabri’s two detained children.

Two adult children and a brother of Saad Aljabri, who is said to hold key state secrets, were detained in Riyadh in March, with a source close to the family telling AFP they were victims of a ‘Saudi game of thrones.’

Aljabri, credited by Western officials for playing a pivotal role in the kingdom's fight against Al-Qaeda, had earlier attempted to get his children to leave Saudi Arabia but authorities had placed them under a travel ban, the source said.

‘We write to express our urgent concern about the abduction in Saudi Arabia of two children of a close US ally and friend, Dr Saad Aljabri,’ Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy, Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen, joined by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, said in a joint letter to Trump.

‘The Saudi government is believed to be using the children as leverage to try to force their father's return to the kingdom from Canada, where he currently resides.

‘We believe the US has a moral obligation to do what it can to assist in securing his children's freedom. We urge you to raise this issue with senior Saudi officials and press for the immediate release of Dr Aljabri's children,’ said the letter, posted by Leahy on Twitter.

Saudi authorities have so far not publicly commented on the case.

The source close to the Aljabris said the whereabouts of the children - Sarah and Omar, who are in their early 20s - remain unknown and the family's repeated appeals to Saudi rulers have gone unanswered.

In May, Saad Aljabri’s brother, Abdulrahman, was also arrested. 

The Aljabri family source said the two children were caught up in the dangerous power plays and being used as ‘pawns.’

MBS, who has faced repeated allegations of human rights abuse, is a close ally of Trump.

In their letter, the senators pressed Trump to help Aljabri, describing him as a ‘highly valued partner’ of American intelligence agencies.

‘As a top intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia, Dr Aljabri has been credited by former CIA officials for saving thousands of American lives by discovering and preventing terrorist plots,’ said the letter.

‘His development of a modern forensics system in Saudi Arabia reportedly contributed to the significant curtailing of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda.’

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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