Crushing dissent: The Saudi kill team behind Khashoggi’s death

Seven Saudis concerned within the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi belonged to an elite unit charged with defending Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in line with a declassified report on the assassination launched Friday. The New York Times has linked the group to a brutal marketing campaign to crush dissent inside the dominion and overseas, citing interviews with U.S. officers who’ve learn categorised intelligence stories concerning the marketing campaign.

The position of operatives from the so-called Rapid Intervention Force, or RIF, within the Khashoggi killing helped bolster the U.S. intelligence case that Crown Prince Mohammed permitted the operation. “Members of the RIF would not have participated” within the killing with out the crown prince’s consent, in line with the report.

The group “exists to defend the crown prince” and “answers only to him” the report stated. On Friday, the Treasury Department designated the Rapid Intervention Force for financial sanctions for its position within the Khashoggi killing.

Here is a few of what’s recognized concerning the unit:


The killing of Khashoggi was however one significantly egregious operation involving members of the group. The Rapid Intervention Force seems to have begun its violent marketing campaign in 2017, the yr Crown Prince Mohammed pushed apart his older rival to turn into inheritor to the Saudi throne.

According to U.S. officers, the group has carried out dozens of operations each inside the dominion and past — together with forcibly repatriating Saudis from different Arab nations. The group additionally seems to have been concerned within the detention and abuse of distinguished ladies’s rights activists who had campaigned for lifting the dominion’s ban on ladies driving. One of them, Loujain al-Hathloul, was imprisoned in 2018 and launched this month.

Another of the ladies detained by the group, a college lecturer, tried to kill herself in 2018 after being subjected to psychological torture, in line with U.S. officers. Some of the detainees had been held quickly inside an opulent palace belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed and his father, King Salman.

The group was so busy that, in June 2018, its area commander requested an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed whether or not the Rapid Intervention Force may get bonuses for Eid al-Fitr, the vacation marking the top of the holy month of Ramadan, in line with U.S. officers who’ve learn an intelligence report that mentions the request.

Leadership and Operatives

The group was overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, one of many crown prince’s high aides who served as a media czar for the royal court. One of al-Qahtani’s roles was to handle the dominion’s “troll farms” — organizations that used legions of on-line bots and avatars to smother the voices of distinguished critics like Khashoggi. The intelligence report launched Friday made reference to a 2018 quote from al-Qahtani that he “did not make decisions without the crown prince’s approval.”

American officers stated the sphere commander for the Rapid Intervention Force was Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer who usually traveled abroad with Crown Prince Mohammed. Another operative on the team, Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, was a member of the Saudi Royal Guard who in 2017 was promoted for acts of valor throughout an assault on certainly one of Crown Prince Mohammed’s palaces.

The declassified report Friday named all three males as a part of a gaggle of 21 individuals who “participated in, ordered or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi” on behalf of the crown prince.

The Trial

The Saudi authorities has lengthy denied that Crown Prince Mohammed had any position in Khashoggi’s killing, and it put eight males on trial for it. The authorities by no means launched the names of the accused.

In September, a Saudi courtroom introduced that 5 of the boys had been sentenced to twenty years in jail, and three others obtained lesser sentences. Some of the defendants had initially obtained death sentences, however these sentences had been lifted after certainly one of Khashoggi’s sons stated publicly that he and his siblings had pardoned the boys who killed their father.

It was unclear whether or not any members of the Rapid Intervention Force had been placed on trial or sentenced, however al-Qahtani was publicly exonerated by the Saudi authorities as a result of prosecutors stated there was inadequate proof to attempt him in Khashoggi’s killing.

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