A top aide to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fired from his high-level job in the aftermath of the Jamal Khashoggi murder scandal, Royal Court Adviser Saud al-Qahtani, was actually the man who orchestrated Khashoggi’s killing, communicating with the 15-member Saudi hit team and giving them instructions using the online teleconferencing application Skype, according to a blockbuster report Monday by the news agency Reuters.
Citing information from “two intelligence sources,” Monday’s report by Reuters says that after Khashoggi was seized by the 15-member Saudi hit team, immediately upon entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, al-Qahtani was “beamed into a room” via Skype connection, and “began to hurl insults at Khashoggi.”
But when Khashoggi responded defiantly, by insulting the top aide to the Saudi ruler right back, al-Qahtani ordered the 15 Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi, according to Turkish intelligence sources cited by Reuters, instructing them, “Bring me the head of the dog.”
Al-Qahtani has worked in high-level positions close to the top of the Saudi Royal Family since 2003, according to a profile by the Al Jazeera news agency. He is also known as a fiercely loyal defender of the family’s rule over the country, publicly declaring, “I will remain a loyal servant to my country for all times,” even after he was fired from his top-level post on Saturday.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now has his hands on an audio recording of al-Qahtani’s Skype call, according to the Reuters report. The Turkish strongman has said that he will reveal what happened to Khashoggi “in full nakedness” on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.
But while the firing of al-Qahtani may have been intended to set him up as a “fall guy” in Khashoggi’s killing, according to Reuters the move could backfire on bin Salman, because he has been especially close to and reliant on his top aide, who once said, “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.”
The involvement of al-Qahtani, if the Reuters story proves accurate, would appear to flatly contradict the assertion made Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who called the slaying of the journalist — who was a frequent and outspoken critic of the Saudi regime — “a rogue operation,” according to a USA Today report.