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.
Saad Aljabri (left), who once held a cabinet-level intelligence post under deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has been living in exile in Toronto since Mohammed bin Salman (right), also known as MBS, ruthlessly took power in 2017 and became the de facto ruler of the desert kingdom. Aljabri alleges in a lawsuit that bin Salman wants him dead
Aljabri alleges that the Saudi government has kidnapped his two adult children – son Omar, 21, and daughter Sarah (seen left with her father), 20 – in an attempt to lure him back to the country
Aljabri is seen right in this undated file photo with his son, Omar, who along with his sister has not been heard from since March
Last month, a bipartisan group of four United States senators called on President Trump to make an effort to secure the release of Aljabri’s two children. Sarah Aljabri is seen in the above file photo
DailyMail.com 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.
The alleged plot to have Aljabri assassinated was thwarted less than two weeks after a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi (seen above in February 2015), was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA believes MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi
Aljabri was considered a close ally of former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (seen above in March 2016), who was heir to the throne before MBS orchestrated a palace coup with the support of the Trump administration in 2017. Saudi King Salman is seen right
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.’
Who is the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?
The Crown Prince – known simply as MBS – (pictured at a conference in Riyadh in October) was warmly embraced by the West for his liberal reforms, but the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has left his reputation severely tarnished
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is known as the true power behind the throne in Saudi Arabia.
His father, King Salman, was made ruler in 2015, and his son has been given a huge amount of say in how the country is government.
He won plaudits from Western leaders after he introduced some moderate reforms – allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive for the first time ever and introducing cinemas to the country.
The Crown Prince – known simply as MBS – also reigned in the country’s fierce and ultra conservative religious police.
Leaders including Theresa May and Donald Trump have rolled out the red carpet for him during his lavish visits.
But the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi has severely damaged his reputation.
MBS has been accused of ordering the journalist’s murder, and the killing sparked calls for him to be replaced as Crown Prince.
While the Saudi authorities have publicly insisted the Prince does not have blood on his hands and did not order the killing, his reputation has been badly tarnished.
He also has directed the Saudi war in Yemen, were the kingdom has been accused of breaching international human rights law and plunging millions into famine.
And questions were already raised about how ruthlessly he will crush opposition after he imprisoned Saudi royals in the country’s five star Ritz hotel last year.
He said he locked them up in a massive anti-corruption drove.
But his critics said that the move was a way for MBS to purge his political rivals.
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.’
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Key moments surrounding the writer’s disappearance and death
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the kingdom’s policies and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia says he died in a ‘fistfight.’
Here are some key moments in the slaying of the Washington Post columnist:
BEFORE HIS DISAPPEARANCE
September 2017: The Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in its newspaper, in which the former royal court insider and longtime journalist writes about going into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticize the prince and the kingdom’s direction.
September 28, 2018: Over a year after the Post published his first column, Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents in order to get married. He’s later told to return October 2, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz says. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a plan or a ‘road map’ to kill Khashoggi was devised in Saudi Arabia during this time.
September 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.
October 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul. At around 4.30pm, a three-person Saudi team arrives in Istanbul on a scheduled flight, checks in to their hotels then visits the consulate, according to Erdogan. The Turkish president says another group of officials from the consulate travel to a forest in Istanbul’s outskirts and to the nearby city of Yalova on a ‘reconnaissance’ trip.
Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2
THE DAY OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE
3.28am, October 2: A private jet arrives at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport carrying some members of what Turkish media will refer to as a 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad.’ Other members of the team arrive by two commercial flights in the afternoon. Erdogan says the team includes Saudi security and intelligence officials and a forensics expert. They meet at the Saudi Consulate. One of the first things they do is to dismantle a hard disk connected to the consulate’s camera system, the president says.
11.50am: Khashoggi is called to confirm his appointment at the consulate later that day, Erdogan says.
1.14pm: Surveillance footage later leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi Consulate. No footage made public ever shows him leaving. His fiancee waits outside, pacing for hours.
3.07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi Consulate for the consul general’s home some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.
5.50pm: Khashoggi’s fiancee alerts authorities, saying he may have been forcibly detained inside the consulate or that something bad may have happened to him, according to Erdogan.
7pm: A private plane from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.
11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which the next day returns to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.
Erdogan confirms reports that a ‘body double’ – a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and a beard – leaves the consulate building for Riyadh with another person on a scheduled flight later that day.
CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death
October 3: Khashoggi’s fiancee and the Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: ‘We have nothing to hide.’
October 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out ‘follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building.’
October 5: The Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: ‘A missing voice.’
October 6: The Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a ‘preplanned murder’ by a Saudi team.
October 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him the writer was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls ‘baseless allegations.’
October 8: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.
October 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi Consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.
October 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi’s fiancee asks President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.
October 11: Turkish media describes Saudi squad as including royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert. Trump calls Khashoggi’s disappearance a ‘bad situation’ and promises to get to the bottom of it.
October 12: Trump again pledges to find out what happened to Khashoggi.
October 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi’s alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.
October 14: Trump says that ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.
Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
October 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi Consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Mideast over the case. Meanwhile, business leaders say they won’t attend an economic summit in the kingdom that’s the brainchild of Prince Mohammed.
October 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that ‘certain evidence’ was found in the Saudi Consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Trump compares the case to the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, saying: ‘Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.’
October 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey’s president and foreign minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate.
October 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage walked into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.
October 20: Saudi Arabia for the first time acknowledges Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a ‘fistfight.’ The claim draws immediate skepticism from the kingdom’s Western allies, particularly in the U.S. Congress.
October 22: A report says a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the time Khashoggi was killed. Police search a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate parked at an underground garage in Istanbul.
CCTV emerges showing a Saudi intelligence officer dressed in a fake beard and Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses on the day he went missing.
October 23: Erdogan says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi after plotting his death for days, demanding that Saudi Arabia reveal the identities of all involved.
October 25: Changing their story again, Saudi prosecutors say Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated crime.
November 2: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Earlier the same day, Yasin Aktay, a ruling party adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he believed the body had to have been dissolved in acid.
November 4: Khashoggi’s sons Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi issue appeal for his remains to be returned so that he may be buried in Saudi Arabia.
November 10: President Erdogan says Turkey gave the audio recordings linked to the murder to ‘Saudi Arabia, to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the British’.
November 13: Turkish media reports that the luggage carried by the Saudi ‘hit squad’ included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against Khashoggi.
November 15: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announces that he is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder. Shalaan al-Shalaan said the person who had ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team sent to repatriate him, and exonerated Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury announces sanctions against 17 Saudi officials, including the Consul General in Turkey, Mohammed Alotaibi.
November 16: A CIA assessment reported in the Washington Post finds that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.
November 18: Germany bans 18 Saudi nationals believed to be connected to the murder from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone. Berlin also announces it has as halted previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia amid the fallout.