US sanctions 16 Saudis for Khashoggi killing

WASHINGTON (AA): The U.S. State Department sanctioned and issued a travel ban for 16 Saudi citizens for their alleged involvement in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul last fall.

The sanctioned Saudis include those with close links to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is widely held responsible for the killing, therefore they are called the “prince’s men”.

– Director of murder: Al-Qahtani

The first name is Saud al-Qahtani, the former advisor to the crown prince.

Al-Qahtani would conduct smear campaigns on social media to target institutions or people opposing the new administration of Saudi Arabia, led by bin Salman.

He was also serving as a minister in the Saudi royal court. His army of social media trolls threatened opponents, including Jamal Khashoggi.

Also, he is known have played a significant role in Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s detention in Saudi Arabia and forced resignation in late 2017. He head the propaganda campaigns against Qatar following the embargo led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Al-Qahtani also interrogated dissident Saudi royal family members and businessmen, after bin Salman became the de facto leader of the country. International media outlets repeatedly produced stories regarding Al-Qahtani’s alleged communication with the hit-squad sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.

The Saudi administration was forced to dismiss Al-Qahtani after Khashoggi’s murder scandal came to light, he was banned from traveling abroad. In line with the Khashoggi investigation in Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Al-Qahtani, who was accused of “deliberately killing (someone)”.

Meanwhile, the Saudi authorities continue to make contradictory statements regarding what happened to Al-Qahtani.

– Ringleader of hit-squad: Mutreb

Another prominent figure highlighted in Washington’s sanction list is Maher Mutreb, who joined bin Salman’s team after serving the intelligence service of Saudi Arabia.

Mutreb, who became a colonel in the Royal Guards, has got a number of photos with the crown prince.

He allegedly received spyware training in various countries such as Italy and the U.K. It was claimed he met Khashoggi in 2017 when he was operating as a security attaché in Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in London.

Known as the head of the hit-squad who killed Khashoggi, Mutreb entered Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul Consulate on Oct. 2, an hour before Khashoggi was brutally killed. He allegedly called Riyadh right after Khashoggi was killed and said: “Tell your boss, the deed is done.”

– Evidence spoiler: Tubaigy

Salah Tubaigy left Saudi Arabia for the U.K. in 2004 to pursue a master’s degree in Glasgow University’s medical school.

For the next five years, Tubaigy operated as a forensic pathologist in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh and Dammam provinces; he got some articles published regarding murders in Saudi Arabia. Having operated as head of Forensic Medicine Institute of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, he was regarded as one of the prominent figures of forensic studies in the country.

Tubaigy was among the hit-squad of 15 people sent to kill Khashoggi, his mission was to “spoil evidence”. He is also known to have dismembered Khashoggi’s body.

– Khashoggi’s body double: Mustafa al-Madani

Mustafa al-Madani has also been named in Washington’s sanction list. His mission in Istanbul was to be the body double of Khashoggi to mislead investigators. Al-Madani is a petroleum engineer. He is known to be an advisor to bin Salman and has accompanied him to some important meetings. After Khashoggi was killed, al-Madani left the consulate in Khashoggi’s clothes. However, he forgot to wear Khashoggi’s shoes, giving himself away.

He sought to give the impression that Khashoggi left the consulate by moving around the diplomatic building. He also allegedly shared intelligence within the hit-squad.

The other names included in the U.S. sanction list are as follows: Meshal al-Albostani, Naif Alarifi, Mohammed al-Alzahrani, Mansour Abahussain, Khalid al-Otaibi, Abdulaziz al-Hawsawi, Waleed al-Sehri, Thaar al-Harbi, Fahad al-Balawi, Badr al-Utaibi, Saif al-Qahtani and Turki al-Sehri.

Saudi Arabia has yet to make a statement regarding the fate of these people who were responsible for logistics, communications and intelligence of the hit-squad.

Notably, Mohammad al-Otaibi, Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul, was not included in the sanction list.

Al-Otaibi drew global outrage after he opened the consulate doors to journalists to prove that Khashoggi was not in the building; he even opened closets and electrical panels, triggering the global community with his slapdash attitude.

In addition, Ahmad al-Asiri, the former deputy intelligence chief who directed the murder along with al-Qahtani, was not included in the sanction list either.

Having been educated in Saudi Arabia’s Armed Forces Command, Asiri was recognized as the spokesman of a coalition established in 2015 for military action in Yemen.

Saudi prosecutors indictment regarding Khashoggi’s murder claimed that Asiri instructed the hit-squad to bring Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia and use force if necessary, but he was not informed about the murder.