News Code: 2969

Date of Release: 2018-10-29

Britain ‘knew of kidnap plot’ of Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia

Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was about to disclose details of Saudi Arabia’s use of chemical weapons in Yemen, sources close to him said. The revelations come as separate intelligence sources disclosed that Britain had first been made aware of a plot a full three weeks before he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Intercepts […]

Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was about to disclose details of Saudi Arabia’s use of chemical weapons in Yemen, sources close to him said. The revelations come as separate intelligence sources disclosed that Britain had first been made aware of a plot a full three weeks before he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Intercepts by GCHQ of internal communications by Britain’s General Intelligence Directorate revealed orders by a “member of the royal circle” to abduct the troublesome journalist and take him back to Saudi Arabia, the UK’s Sunday Express reported.

The orders, intelligence sources say, did not emanate directly from de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and it is not known if he was aware of them.

Though they commanded that Khashoggi should be abducted and taken back to Riyadh, they “left the door open” for other actions should the journalist prove to be troublesome, sources said.

Last week Saudi Arabia’s attorney general confirmed that the murder had been premeditated – in contrast with initial official explanations that Khashoggi had been killed after a fight broke out.

“The suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention,” he said.

Those suspects are within a 15-strong hit-squad sent to Turkey, and include serving members of the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency (GID).

The intelligence source told the Sunday Express: “We were initially made aware that something was going in the first week of September, around three weeks before Mr. Khashoggi walked into the consulate on October 2, though it took more time for other details to emerge. These details included primary orders to capture Mr. Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia for questioning. However, the door seemed to be left open for alternative remedies to what was seen as a big problem. We know the orders came from a member of the royal circle but have no direct information to link them to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Whether this meant he was not the original issuer we cannot say.”

Crucially, the highly-placed source confirms that MI6 had warned his Saudi Arabian counterparts to cancel the mission – though this request was ignored.

“On October 1 we became aware of the movement of a group, which included members of the GID to Istanbul, and it was pretty clear what their aim was. Through channels we warned that this was not a good idea. Subsequent events show that our warning was ignored.”

Asked why MI6 had not alerted its Five Eye intelligence partner, the US, the source said only: “A decision was taken that we’d done what we could.”

A close friend of Khashoggi revealed that he was about to obtain “documentary evidence” proving claims that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons in its war in Yemen.

“I met him a week before his death. He was unhappy and he was worried,” said the Middle Eastern academic, who did not wish to be named.

“When I asked him why he was worried, he didn’t really want to reply, but eventually he told me he was getting proof that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons. He said he hoped he be getting documentary evidence. All I can tell you is that the next thing I heard, he was missing.”

While there have been recent unsubstantiated claims that Saudi Arabia has been supplying ingredients that can be used to produce the nerve agent Sarin in Yemen, it is more likely that Khashoggi was referring to phosphorous.

Last month it was claimed that Saudi Arabia had been using US-supplied white phosphorous munitions against troops and even civilians in Yemen.

Though regulations state the chemical may be used to provide smokescreens, if used illegally it can burn to the bone.

Chemical warfare expert Col. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said: “If Khashoggi did, in fact, have proof that Saudi Arabia was deliberately misusing phosphorous for this purpose, it would be highly embarrassing for the regime and provides the nearest motive yet as to why Riyadh may have acted when they did against him.”

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