One of the Saudi crown prince’s top aides, who led the interrogation with Lebanese PM Saad Hariri in November 2017, directed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi via a Skype call, Reuters news agency on Monday reported on Monday quoting sources.
According to the sources, Saud al-Qahtani the team of operatives at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to “bring me the head of the dog.”
The now-sacked media adviser al-Qahtani was part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle and was he was tasked with defending the royal family, and Prince Mohammed in particular, from attacks on social media.
Eight Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic sources told Reuters that Qahtani led the interrogation of Hariri in 2017 when he was detained in Saudi Arabia, an ordeal which apparently involved verbal humiliation as well as physical abuse.
Last year, Qahtani tweeted that he was absolutely loyal to the royal family and would not do anything without their permission.
“Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the faithful crown prince,” he wrote.
A tough critic of the crown prince, Khashoggi, 59, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage.
According to the report, Turkish sources say Khashoggi was seized inside the consulate by a 15-man team that had arrived in the country just two hours earlier.
An individual described by the news agency as a “high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia’s royal court” says that Qahtani was then connected to the room in the consulate via video call and began to hurl insults at Khashoggi.
The Saudi writer apparently responded to Qahtani with insults, at which point the royal aide told his team to kill the journalist.
“Bring me the head of the dog,” Qahtani instructed, a Turkish source told Reuters.
A high-ranking Arab source described the killing as a “bungled and botched operation,” and it is unclear whether Qahtani watched the slaying of the writer.
Both Arab and Turkish intelligence sources told Reuters that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is in possession of an audio recording of the Skype call and is refusing to hand it over to the US.