Reports air Saudi prince’s brutal push to quell dissent
WASHINGTON – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissenters – which included the surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens – more than a year before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign.
At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the same team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in Istanbul in October 2018, suggesting that his killing was a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents, according to the officials and associates of some of the Saudi victims.
Members of the team that killed Khashoggi, which U.S. officials called the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017, they said.
Some of the operations involved forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman, the officials and associates said.
One of the Saudis detained by the group, a university lecturer in linguistics who wrote a blog about women in Saudi Arabia, tried to kill herself last year after being subjected to psychological torture, according to U.S. intelligence reports and others briefed on her situation.
Details about the operations come from U.S. officials who have read classified intelligence assessments about the Saudi campaign, as well as from Saudis with direct knowledge of some of the operations. They spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from disclosing classified information.
A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the kingdom “takes any allegations of ill treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously.”