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Saudi Crown Prince Created Secret Team Against Khashoggi – NYT Says

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman authorised a secret campaign to silence dissenters more than a year before the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Riyadh consulate in Istanbul in October.

Citing American officials who have read classified intelligence reports on the campaign, the NYT Times said the campaign used techniques such as surveillance, kidnapping, detention and the torture of Saudi citizens. It said at least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the same team that killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi.

It said that suggests his killing was “a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents”.

Members of the team that killed Mr. Khashoggi, which American officials called the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, were involved in at least a dozen operations starting in 2017, the New York Times said.

According to New York Times sources, some of the operations involved forcibly repatriating Saudis from other Arab countries and detaining and abusing prisoners in palaces belonging to the crown prince and his father, King Salman.

It said one of the Saudis detained, a university lecturer in linguistics who wrote a blog about women in Saudi Arabia, tried to kill herself last year after being subjected to psychological torture, according to American intelligence reports and others briefed on her situation.

The rapid intervention team had been so busy that last June it asked a top adviser to Bin Salman whether the crown prince would give the team bonuses for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, the NYT said.

Details about the operations were supplied by American officials who read classified intelligence assessments about the Saudi campaign against the dissidents, as well as Saudis with direct knowledge of some of the “missions”, the NYT said.

It said a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said Riyadh “takes any allegations of ill treatment of defendants awaiting trial or prisoners serving their sentences very seriously.”

The NYT’s revelations once again put US President Donald Trump and his administration in a bad light, as the president has thus far supported Bin Salman’s claim that the crown prince had nothing to do with Khashoggi’s killing.

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