A Covert Saudi Officer’s Family Targeted By Crown Prince

An exiled Saudi Intelligence officer faces pressure to return after two of his children were arrested and detained by Saudi security forces.

According to Ben Hubbard of the New York Times, Dr. Saad al-Jabri escaped the country three years prior and has been living self-exiled in Canada since. One of Aljabri’s brothers was taken into detention alongside the two children, Omar, 21, and Sarah Aljabri, 20, said Hubbard.

“They were kidnapped from their beds,” said Aljabri’s other son, Dr. Khalid Aljabri, 34, who is in Canada alongside his father. “I don’t even know if they are alive or dead.”

Aljabri’s son said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is more commonly referred to by his initials M.B.S., wants Aljabri to return back because he fears Aljabri has too much knowledge of sensitive information, reported Hubbard. 

Hubbard said that Aljabri, who received a doctorate in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, worked in the Interior Ministry of the Saudi kingdom for 40 years under former Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef and then as his major general, who has since been expelled from power.

 During Aljabri’s time under Nayef rule, he helped to combat Al Qaeda efforts and attacks, Hubbard said; and according to Al Jazeera, Aljabri also maintained security coordination between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

According to a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official who is currently at Brookings Institution, Bruce Riedel, the Interior Ministry not only worked with the United States, but their surveillance efforts gave insight to capricious amounts of information about the nation’s royal family and corruption, said Hubbard. “Their files will be the catalog of every untoward incident, from the truly illegal to the maybe just embarrassing,” reported Hubbard. 

Senior vice president at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Gerald M. Feierstein, said 

that Aljabri could thus have knowledge of unfavorable information about the royal family and more specifically Prince Mohammed, Hubbard said, which could be the incentive M.B.S. has for wanting control of Aljabri. 

If not for that reason, Aljabri supposedly accumulated a small fortune during his position with the Ministry and the prince wants the money back, according to two unnamed sources who alluded to this motive, said Hubbard.

Al Jazeera affirmed that Mohammed Bin Nayef lost power in 2017 after King Salmon selected M.B.S as operative ruler. Upon the new rise of command, Aljabri had already escaped the country with six of his children, while two remained behind, said Hubbard. The two who remained were put in lockdown and banned from leaving the kingdom, according to Al Jazeera, where they were to attend universities in the United States Universities.

Mohammed Bin Nayef was reportedly also under house arrest up until March, when he was then arrested and taken into custody, said Al Jazeera; Mohammed Bin Nayef was rumored to have been arrested after making supposed criticisms to M.B.S’s way of ruling.

An informed source about the Aljabri case notioned that the former Interior Ministry member did not relocate to the states because of the Trump administration; according to the source, Aljabri did not trust that Trump would not give him to M.B.S if he asked, said Hubbard. Aljabri did not want to risk being sent back in a time where America held tight relations with the new Saudi Arabian prince and enemy of Mohammed Bin Nayef.

In 2018, opinion journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul, according to Al Jazeera. The CIA, among others, believe that M.B.S had him murdered for his writings for The Washington Post, a source the late journalist wrote for to critique M.B.S and Saudi Arabian politics, Al Jazeera said. 

While Saudi Arabia denied the allegations, tensions are high in the Aljabri family who are trying to get the children released; the family have not heard any responses from abroad in weeks; they broke silence agreements by conferring with the New York Times and also hired a Washington based lobbying firm to help.

Al Jazeera disclosed that the Gulf Affairs analyst Sigurd Neubauer said, “The long game is tied to the US presidential election. In the event Joe Biden wins, I think that we can see a whole sale of releases of high profile Saudi dissidents and members of the royal family,” Neubauer said.

Ellie Hunter