- The operation that led to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was reportedly coordinated via Skype by one of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s top aides, Reuters reports.
- Saud al-Qahtani, 40, reportedly directed the operation via Skype, and at one point allegedly said, “Bring me the head of the dog.”
- Qahtani’s close relationship to Prince Mohammed makes it harder for the Saudis to distance the crown prince from the deadly operation.
Saud al-Qahtani, 40, reportedly hurled insults at Khashoggi via Skype as the journalist was interrogated, and Khashoggi defiantly answered him in kind, according to what Arab and Turkish intelligence sources told Reuters.
Qahtani at one point told his men to “dispose” of Khashoggi and allegedly said, “Bring me the head of the dog.” Some earlier reports suggested Khashoggi was beheaded before being dismembered.
Qahtani, who has helped oversee a number of operations for the 33-year-old crown prince, was reportedly among five officials fired by the Saudi government on Saturday in relation to Khashoggi’s death.
He ran the crown prince’s social media, and was reportedly involved in the controversial kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon. Qahtani’s close relationship to Prince Mohammed will seemingly make it difficult for the Saudis to distance the crown prince from the deadly incident, which the Saudi foreign minister described as a “rogue operation” in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
Qahtani’s Twitter bio recently changed from royal adviser to chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, which is a position he previously held, Reuters reports.
The Saudis are maintaining that the crown prince, who’s suspected of orchestrating the events to led to Khashoggi’s death, did not have any prior knowledge of the operation.
Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish officials subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of sending in a 15-man hit team to brutally kill the journalist, who was often critical of the Saudi government in his reporting.
For nearly three weeks, the Saudis issued strong denials of any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But on Friday the Saudi government officially confirmed Khashoggi’s death, and claimed he died as a result of a fistfight with men in the consulate. This claim has been met with widespread scepticism.
The Saudis have also claimed the men involved in Khashoggi’s death attempted to cover it up, and have arrested 18 people in connection with the incident.
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