Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was about to expose details of Saudi Arabia’s use of banned chemical weapons in its war on Yemen days before he was killed according to a report.
A source close to the dissident journalist told the British Sunday Express newspaper that he was about to disclose details of Saudi Arabia’s use of white phosphorous munitions in Yemen
The news come as separate intelligence sources also revealed that Britain had first been made aware of a kidnap plot three weeks before Khashoggi, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The UK allegedly begged Saudi Arabia to abort their plans.
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The Sunday Express reports: Intercepts by GCHQ of internal communications by the kingdom’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 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 to 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.
“The Public Prosecution continues its investigations with the accused in the light of what it has received and the results of its investigations to reach facts and complete the course of justice.”
Those suspects are within a 15-strong hit squad sent to Turkey, and include serving members of GID.
Speaking last night 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 as ignored.
“On October 1 we became aware of the movement of a group, which included members of Ri’āsat Al-Istikhbārāt Al-‘Āmah (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 (Khashoggi was a US citizen) the source said only: “A decision was taken that we’d done what we could.”
However analysts offered one possible explanation for this.
“The misleading image that has been created of Jamal Khashoggi covers up more than it reveals. As an insider to the Saudi regime, Khashoggi had also been close to the former head of the intelligence agency.He was an Islamist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and someone who befriended Osama Bin Laden and had been sympathetic to his Jihad in Afghanistan,” said Tom Wilson, of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank.
“All of these connections are being hidden by a simplistic narrative that Jamal Khashoggi was just a progressive freedom fighting journalist. It isn’t plausible that he was murdered simply for being a journalist critical of the regime. The truth is much more complicated.”
Last night a close friend of Mr Khashoggi revealed that he was about to obtain “documentary evidence” proving clams that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons in its proxy 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 in Iran that Saudi Arabia has been supplying ingredients that can be used to produce the nerve agent Sarin in Yemen, it is more likely that Mr Khashoggi was referring to phospherous..
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 it burn to the bone.
Chemical warfare expert Col Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said: “We have already seen in Syria that nothing is as effective as chemical, weapons in clearing urban areas of troops and civilians – Assad has used phosphorous for this very reason.
“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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