'I’m not going to stop': Friend of missing journalist Khashoggi says Saudi government knew about a 'dangerous' secret project they were working on

Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesPeople hold posters of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organised by members of the Turkish-Arabic Media Association at the entrance to Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • A friend of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said they were working on a secret project together that the Saudi government apparently knew about before he disappeared.
  • The project, dubbed “the bees,” aimed to build an online army by providing Saudi activists with foreign SIM cards to avoid government detection.
  • Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and is feared dead.

A friend of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said they were working on a secret project together that the Saudi government apparently knew about before he disappeared.

Omar Abdulaziz, a 27-year-old Saudi national and opposition activist, told The Washington Post he’d enlisted Khashoggi to help him a project they called “the bees.”

The project aimed to undermine a group of pro-Saudi government trolls on social media by building an online army using foreign SIM cards. Twitter requires a phone number to verify accounts, so having a foreign number can help activists avoid being traced and arrested by the Saudi government.

Khashoggi at one point reportedly gave Abdulaziz $US5,000 for the project, though he told The Post that Kashoggi also expressed concerns to him that it was too “dangerous.”

Abdulaziz told The Post that two men with connections to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s suspected of orchestrating Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing, for months pressured him to return to his home country.

Khashoggi reportedly warned him not to accept any offers from the men, advising Abdulaziz that it was a ploy by the crown prince to lure dissidents back to Saudi Arabia before arresting them.

The two men at one point met with Abdulaziz in a Montreal cafe, delivering a personal message from the crown prince. Abdulaziz secretly recorded the conversation, and provided the recording to The Post. The meeting reportedly occurred on May 15.

The Post reported that the file data shows the recording was made at the times Abdulaziz said, and WhatsApp messages from the men also backed up his claims.

Initially, the men reportedly offered Abdulaziz money to return home, but he was eventually threatened with prison. Abdulaziz said his two of his younger brothers and eight of his friends were arrested in Saudi Arabia in early August, apparently in retribution for his refusal to cooperate.

When Abdulaziz contacted the men who attempted to convince him to return to his native country, he said they alerted him that the Saudi government knew about “the bees.”

The Saudi foreign ministry did not answer inquiries from The Post about Abdulaziz’s claims.

According to US intelligence intercepts recently reported on by The Post, the crown prince also sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia in a similar manner. This is apparently part of a broader trend from the crown prince to crack down on dissents and send a message to activists they’re not safe no matter where they are in the world.

Khashoggi, who was often critical of the Saudi government in his reporting, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October. Saudi leadership, including the crown prince, vehemently deny allegations they orchestrated the journalist’s killing. But they have provided no evidence he safely departed the consulate, and it’s been over two weeks since Khashoggi went missing.


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