Khashoggi murdered by a team formed months ago
The crown prince’s ‘ Tiger Squad,’ which was formed in the summer of 2018 to kill dissidents, is the culprit behind the Khashoggi murder, media outlets reported yesterday
WHILE there have been many questions surrounding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it has been claimed that a group from a special Saudi team, known as the “tiger team,” killed the journalist. Sources speaking to BBC Arabic said on Wednesday that the journalist was killed by a unit from the tiger team, which is led by Saud al-Qahtani, known as the “right arm” of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The 50-member tiger team was reportedly formed in the summer of 2018 for the purpose of killing dissidents within the country and abroad.
THE TIGER Squad, known as the Firqat el-Nemr in Arabic, is a group that consists of 50 well-trained armed personnel with different areas of expertise chosen from various branches of Saudi security services. The members of the squad are also known for their loyalty to MBS. Their job is to track down dissidents and they rarely shy away from getting their hands dirty – a point made starkly evident in the Khashoggi case.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was killed on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi, 59, had been living in the U.S. for a year in selfimposed exile and writing columns for the opinion section of The Washington Post. According to the statement from Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office, once inside Khashoggi was immediately strangled and then dismembered. Previously, Turkish and Saudi officials conducted a joint investigation in the Saudi consul general’s official residence last month.
While the killing of the journalist has caused international outrage, Turkey has gone to great lengths to conduct a transparent investigation and help unveil the truth about what happened to the remains of the journalist. Ankara has been stressing that Saudi Arabia needs to hold those responsible accountable and provide the necessary answers. Despite international outcry and Turkey’s efforts, there have been no official statements from Saudi officials about the remains of the journalist.
Numan Kurtulmuş, deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said yesterday, “Turkey will continue to share every new detail and information with those concerned and fulfill its responsibility of investigating the incident.” He underscored that though the murder of the journalist has political and diplomatic aspects, humanitarian concerns take precedence in the case.
High-level officials in Ankara have been emphasizing that Saudi officials need to say who ordered the killing and that those responsible should be punished. In relation to the incident, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously said he didn’t believe “for a second” that King Salman ordered the killing of the dissident journalist. He also underscored that even though Turkey and Saudi Arabia enjoy friendly relations, Turkey will not “turn a blind eye to the premeditated murder that unfolded in front of our very eyes.”
WHITE HOUSE SAYS WILL HAVE ‘STRONG OPINION’ NEXT WEEK
Following the murder of the journalist, there have been increasing demands that Saudi Arabia be brought to justice, including insistence on strong penalties for the country. Accordingly, U.S. lawmakers have been calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s death. U.S. President Donald Trump appears reluctant, while Senate Republicans aim to suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia for a nuclear technology sharing agreement.
Trump said Wednesday that he was consulting Congress on how to respond to the murder and called Khashoggi’s death a “very sad thing, very terrible thing.” The U.S. president added that he would have “a very strong opinion” to offer next week on the killing, underlining that his administration is working with Turkey and Saudi Arabia to determine what happened to Khashoggi.
Amid the ongoing international criticism of Saudi Arabia, King Salman has begun a domestic tour with his first stop in the conservative heartland of Qassim province, where he pardoned prisoners serving time on financial charges and announced an investment of 16 billion riyals ($4.27 billion) for new projects.
This is the king’s first such tour since he ascended to the throne in 2015 and comes as the kingdom faces international pressure following the incident in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.
Regarding the murder of Khashoggi, the pressure on the country’s crown prince, who has denied any involvement in the killing, has increased as well.
Media reports claimed yesterday that the Saudi crown prince held a meeting with a group of Evangelists close to the U.S. government in Riyadh last week with in an attempt to ease the reaction of the U.S., saying that he will punish those responsible.
SNOWDEN: SAUDIS USED ISRAELI FIRM TO TRACK KHASHOGGI
Meanwhile, former U.S. National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden claimed on Wednesday that software made by an Israeli cyber security firm was used to track the slain journalist.
Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv via a video call from Russia, Snowden said, “The truth is that they pursued some of his friends through a program written by the Israeli company,” and added that Pegasus spyware sold to governments by NSO Group Technologies was used to track opponents.
Snowden said the smartphone of one of Khashoggi’s friends, who was living in exile in Canada, had been infected with NSO’s Pegasus spyware. He highlighted that the software allowed the Saudis to collect information about the slain journalist.
To increase pressure on Riyadh to reveal the truth about the murder, a major journalists’ union in the U.K. earlier this week said governments across the world have a well-stocked toolbox to punish those responsible.
A National Union of Journalists (NUJ) spokesperson told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the union supports the International Federation of Journalists’ call for governments to end their cooperation with the Saudi government until it “tells the truth and arrests the perpetrators.”
The group reiterated its call on the British government “to ensure there is a full and independent inquiry into the killing” of journalist Khashoggi, the spokesperson said, adding, “There must be no impunity.”
“All governments can act - they have economic levers, diplomatic tools and international instruments to seek to bring the killers and those who ordered it to justice,” said an NUJ statement.
A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul, Oct. 25.