Former Saudi intelligence chief faces new death threat

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

erin schaff / Le service de presse du New York Times

A high-ranking former Saudi intelligence czar is under increased security watch in Canada due to an active threat from agents of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The source told The Globe and Mail that Canadian security agencies were recently alerted to a new assassination attempt on Saad Aljabri, the former counterintelligence chief under deposed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was ousted in a coup in June 2017.

The source would not provide further details on the recent assassination threat against Dr Aljabri, who lives in an unknown location in Toronto under the protection of heavily armed RCMP officers and private security. The Globe and Mail is not revealing the name of the source because it was not authorized to discuss sensitive national security issues.

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As recently as May of this year, the Crown Prince and his advisers were heard to say that they were planning to ‘send men to kill Dr Saad in Canada by land this time’ – that is, “say by sending US agents to cross the border to complete the job,” according to documents filed by a US federal court in Washington this week.

Court documents say the Crown Prince met his close advisers in Neom, Saudi Arabia in May 2020, “where they were heard to say he had obtained a fatwa for the murder of Dr Saad. A fatwa is a non-binding decision or interpretation of Islamic law by a religious authority.

“Due to defendant bin Salman’s fatwa, the latest step in a multi-year execution campaign, Dr. Saad’s life remains in great danger to this day,” according to court documents.

As The Globe reported on Thursday from the same court documents, the Crown Prince reportedly dispatched a strike team to Canada in October 2018 to attempt to kill Dr Aljabri – the offer was rejected when border officials from the Canada refused all entries except one to Ottawa. Macdonald-Laurier International Airport. The effort was reportedly made less than two weeks after Saudi agents killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Richard Fadden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service who also served as national security adviser to two prime ministers, said the allegations made by Dr Aljabri were plausible.

“I know Mohammed bin Salman has been after Aljabri for some time. I know MBS is a pretty vicious guy – witness Khashoggi – so putting two and two together I find four. So basically, basically, I believe so, ”he said. “Every little detail is a different question.”

Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, an expert on Middle East politics, said she believed in Dr Aljabri’s claims.

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The Washington Post reports that the US State Department, in a letter Thursday, responding to concerns raised by US senators, called Dr Aljabri a “valuable partner” of the US government and pledged to work with the White House. to “resolve this situation in a way that honors Dr. Aljabri’s service to our country.”

Court documents filed on August 6 did not specify how Dr. Aljabri was aware of the alleged assassination threats, but he is known to be a very valuable source of counterintelligence for the United States and other agencies. western espionage. He is credited with alerting US authorities to the bombings of Jewish synagogues in Chicago, court documents show.

Dr Aljabri says in court documents that he has information on the crown prince’s “corrupt transactions” and information on Mr bin Salman’s communications with US adversaries, including Russia’s relations in Syria.

Mary-Liz Power, communications director for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, declined to comment on whether there have been recent attempts to kill Dr Aljabri. She referred The Globe to a statement Mr Blair made on Thursday, in response to the alleged assassination attempt on Dr Aljabri in 2018, in which he said: ‘We are aware of incidents that foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living in Canada.

Since 2017, the Crown Prince, who is the de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Dr Aljabri to return to Saudi Arabia with offers of employment and later threats and arrests of members of the his family, including holding two of his children hostage.

Canadian border security officers at the Ottawa airport intercepted the alleged Saudi team known as the Crown Prince’s “Tiger Squad”, who were carrying two bags of forensic tools and had experience in cleaning up crime scenes. Court documents allege the team attempted “to avoid detection by security at the Canadian border by entering through separate kiosks.”

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A source told The Globe that Canadian security officials had been alerted to the alleged assassination squad by Turkish authorities and other Western intelligence agencies.

“Like that team that traveled to Istanbul to assassinate Khashoggi,” according to court documents, “the Tiger Squad team assembled to kill Dr Saad was made up of an interagency group of employees selected from across the country. the entire Saudi government, including the general’s forensic DNA experts. Department of Criminal Evidence of the Ministry of the Interior, a senior military intelligence officer at the Ministry of Defense and a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “

Mr Fadden said the assassination attempt, as alleged, would constitute a major violation of Saudi Arabia’s international relations.

“I think it is a clear and unambiguous violation of our sovereignty when a state sends its representatives to another state to commit a criminal act. His [also] a violation of international law… I think the Canadian government, if the facts are proven, should indeed take this very seriously.

Dr Aljabri could not be reached for comment on the latest suspected threat against him. Her son, Toronto cardiologist Khalid Aljabri, has not discussed the security situation involving his father.

However, he confirmed that the FBI warned him in January 2018 that his father’s life was in danger and that the crown prince had a strike team chasing his father in the United States and Canada.

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Her father managed to get all but two of her eight children out of Saudi Arabia. In mid-March, Saudi Arabia seized and jailed Omar, 21, and Sara, 20, in what is seen as an attempt to bring him back from exile to Canada. In early May, Saad Aljabri’s brother Abdulrahman, a US-trained electrical engineer, was also arrested.

The husband of Khalid Aljabri’s sister, Hissah, was kidnapped by Saudi agents in Dubai in September 2017 and transferred to Saudi Arabia where he was tortured, Khalid Aljabri said in an interview.

At the time, her sister was in Istanbul and her husband, Salem Alnuzaini, was forced to push her to go to the Saudi consulate in the city. Khalid Aljabri says he suspects she would have been kidnapped if she had left.

Her sister is now in Canada, awaiting approval for permanent resident status.

“There’s no way she’s going back to Turkey. It is obvious that she will not return to Saudi Arabia. So we think the government should do something to help it, ”he said.

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