The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was only a part of a comprehensive secret campaign authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the New York Times reported Sunday.
"His killing was a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents," NYT said on Sunday, citing U.S. officials who have knowledge of classified intelligence reports.
Stressing that the group that killed and dismembered the body of Khashoggi, which is reportedly called "Rapid Intervention Team" were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017, the paper claimed that the campaign began over a year before the murder and it included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens perceived as threats. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives in the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance, Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action but denied any involvement of the royal family. The incident was blamed on lower-level officials, including five that are now facing the death penalty over their involvement. Despite more than 100 days passing since his assassination, the whereabouts of his body remain unknown.
In relation to the issue, Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst told the NYT that "the team's sloppiness [in Khashoggi case] showed that it was used to operating freely inside the kingdom and not under the watchful eye of an adversary's intelligence service."
Pointing out that operations against dissidents have been ramped up after MBS assumed the role as the crown prince in 2017, the paper added repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman was common in the operations.
MBS backdowns from making
appearance in high-profile meetingsThe murder has severely damaged Riyadh's international reputation as the case turned the spotlight on the crown prince. Failing to appease the international community with regional tours to numerous countries in a bid to restore his tarnished image, MBS this time allegedly abstained from being in the public eye amid rifts with the king. According to the Guardian's report published yesterday, MBS has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and has been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority.
The report underscored that low-visibility of the crown prince is due to tension between MBS and his father, which began when he announced two important personnel decisions hours after the king left Saudi Arabia for an official visit to Egypt.
Reportedly, the promotion of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan to serve as Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the promotion of Prince Mohammed's brother, Khalid bin Salman, to the ministry of defense, was announced without the king's approval or knowledge.
The case also has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and its powerful crown prince is forcing many countries to reassess their ties with Riyadh. German-based Tagesspiegel reported that German Social Democratic Party (SPD) called for ending the sale of arms, even the non-heavy ones, to Riyadh in line with the coalition agreement banning arms sale to any warring party in the Yemeni civil war.