The New York Times reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, MBS, authorized operations to silence dissent before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
More than a year before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, MBS approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention, and torture of Saudis, said the report published Sunday citing the U.S. officials who have access to classified intelligence reports about the effort.
American officials referred to it as the "Saudi Rapid Intervention Group," the NYT newspaper said.
At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, implying his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the U.S. officials and associates of some Saudi victims.
These members were involved in at least a dozen operations beginning in 2017, including forced repatriation of Saudis citizen from other Arab countries, the officials said.
The Rapid Intervention Group was authorized by Prince Mohammed and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor, American officials told the Times.
The Rapid Intervention Group has also been involved in the harassment of arrested prominent Saudis human rights defenders, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Iman al-Najfan, according to the NYT.
Saudi officials declined to confirm or deny that such a team existed, or answer questions from the Times about its work.