Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi minister of state and close aide of ex-crown prince and intelligence boss Mohammed bin Nayef, has been in exile since 2017. He has repeatedly alleged that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is plotting to kill him. Aljabri fled Saudi Arabia for Canada after MBS ousted bin Nayef from his position.
Now, in a particularly explosive interview with CBS’ ‘60 Minutes’ show, Aljabri stepped up his claims against the Saudi kingdom’s de facto ruler. The show introduces Aljabri as having once been “among the best friends America had against terrorism.”
“I am here to sound the alarm about a psychopath, killer, in the Middle East with infinite resources, who poses a threat to his people, to the Americans and to the planet,” Aljabri tells his interviewer, Scott Pelley.
MBS is “a psychopath with no empathy, doesn’t feel emotion, never learned from his experience. And we have witnessed atrocities and crimes committed by this killer,” he adds. The crown prince is allegedly holding two of the former high-ranking spy’s children and his son-in-law in captivity, trying to use them as a bargaining chip to make him return to Riyadh.
But the Saudi government insists that Aljabri is a financial criminal, who embezzled over $3 billion while working under bin Nayef. The ex-spymaster claims the reason for his massive wealth is that the Saudi monarchs had been “very generous” to him during his years of service. “It’s a tradition in the Saudi Arabian royal family. They take care of people around them,” he told CBS.
In order to support his claims about bin Salman’s rogue nature, the ex-intelligence official shared a story of how MBS once boasted he could poison the then-king Abdullah to clear the path to the throne for his father. Aljabri claims the threat was made in 2014 during a meeting between bin Salman and bin Nayef, at which he was also present, but he adds he wasn’t sure if MBS was just boasting or revealing actual plans. Aljabri alleges that at least two recordings from that meeting remain and he knows where they are.
King Abdullah died in 2015 from what were said to have been natural causes, and MBS’ elderly father Salman, 85, became the new Saudi King. For the past four years, the real power has rested in the crown prince’s hands.
During this time, bin Salman established himself as a highly controversial figure. He eased some of the strict religious rules in the kingdom, allowing women to drive and opening up cinemas, among other measures. But at the same time, he ordered the arrest of numerous royal family members, loyal to bin Nayef, only allowing them to go free if they agreed to give up a significant part of their wealth. Riyadh has also continued its military operation in Yemen under bin Salman, which has been marred by accusations of indiscriminate airstrikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition.
It’s also widely believed in Western media that MBS was behind the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. The vocal critic of the current Saudi monarchy was killed and dismembered during his visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by what is said to have been a special hit-squad, which arrived in Turkey from the Gulf kingdom.
Aljabri insists that he faced the same fate as Khashoggi, but he managed to escape after one of his former colleagues told him about the threat.
“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. I said ‘Why?’ [They] said, ‘They dismembered the guy, they killed him. You are on the top of the list,’” Aljabri recalled.
He claims that a team of six people, sent by Riyadh, landed at Ottawa Airport in mid-October 2018. However, the agents couldn’t fulfil their task as they ended up being deported after lying to customs officers and carrying suspicious equipment for DNA analysis.
Bin Salman “fears my information,” Aljabri said, adding that he has plenty more damaging secrets about MBS up his sleeve. “I expect to be killed one day because this guy will not rest until he sees me dead,” he said, warning that if MBS’ men eventually get him, a special “death video” revealing those secrets will be instantly made public.
For now, Aljabri has asked journalists to take him at his word, as he’s presented no proof of his claims regarding bin Salman’s threat to assassinate the king or of a Saudi hit-squad being sent to Canada to murder him. The reason behind the timing of the 62-year-old’s interview also remains unclear. CBS said in its report that Aljabri’s interview showed “a measure of his desperation.”
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