Ex-spy claims Saudi prince sent death squad to kill him

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 25 2021 05:00 PM

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the opening of the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. Sergio Moraes, Reuters/File
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the opening of the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. Sergio Moraes, Reuters/File

A former top Saudi Arabian spy has said the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dispatched a team of mercenaries to kill him while in exile in Canada.

In an interview with US broadcaster CBS News' "60 Minutes", Saad Aljabri -- formerly a top spy and interlocutor between the kingdom's intelligence services and Western governments -- alleged he was targeted after he fled the country following a 2017 power grab by the crown prince.

A friend at a Middle Eastern intelligence service, he said, warned that he could face a fate similar to that of Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who investigations have alleged was murdered by a Riyadh-linked death squad after visiting the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

"The warning I received, don't be in a proximity of any Saudi mission in Canada. Don't go to the consulate. Don't go to the embassy... You are on the top of the list," Aljabri told "60 minutes".

He said the team arrived in Canada in October 2018 -- only to be deported when they lied to customs officials and were found to be carrying suspicious items.

AFP was unable to independently verify Aljabri's claims, and requests for comment to the Canadian foreign ministry went unanswered.

But Canadian officials told "60 Minutes" they were "aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to... threaten... those living in Canada," describing the threats as "completely unacceptable."

Aljabri said the group was made up of members of a group named in investigations as the "Tiger Squad" -- a shadow team of paid killers set up by Prince Mohammed specialising in "extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture," according to a 2019 legal complaint filed by the former spy.

He said the group was part of a pattern of despotic behaviour by the crown prince, who was once hailed as a reformer but has ruthlessly purged opponents since becoming the heir-apparent.

Aljabri also said two of his eight children had been detained by Saudi authorities in retaliation for his fleeing the kingdom. 

"I am here to sound the alarm about a psychopath, killer, in the Middle East with infinite resources, who poses threat to his people, to the Americans and to the planet," he said.