Exiled former intelligence official says Saudi government abducted his children

Muhammad bin NayefA Saudi government official, who served as a senior advisor to the oil kingdom’s former Crown Prince, has accused the Saudi monarchy of abducting his children in order to force him to end his self-exile in Canada. With a doctorate in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Saad al-Jabri was until 2015 a rare example of a highly educated government administrator among Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite. Dr. al-Jabri rose in the ranks of the Saudi aristocracy in the 1990s under the tutelage of his patron, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (pictured). Prince bin Nayef is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz, and until 2015 was destined to succeed King Abdullah and occupy the kingdom’s throne. Eventually, bin Nayef appointed Dr. al-Jabri as Minister of State and made him his most senior and trusted adviser on matters of security and intelligence.

Western intelligence officials credit Dr. al-Jabri with transforming the Saudi security establishment in the 2000s, by introducing scientific methods in investigations, associated with digital forensics, data mining and other advanced techniques. Thanks to his British upbringing and education, Dr. al-Jabri operated with ease and comfort in Western capitals. He soon became the primary link between Saudi Arabia and the so-called “Five Eyes Alliance” —a longstanding intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The BBC recently cited anonymous Western intelligence officials, who credited Dr. al-Jabri with “defeating the al-Qaeda insurgency in the 2000s”. In one instance, a source that his subordinates run inside al-Qaeda provided them with critical information that helped prevent a sophisticated terrorist plot targeting a cargo airliner bound for the American city of Chicago. Al-Qaeda operatives had planted an explosive mechanism on the airplane, disguised as a printer ink toner cartridge. Dr. al-Jabri and Saudi intelligence notified their contacts in the British intelligence community about the plan, which ultimately helped avert al-Qaeda’s goal to blow up the airplane over Chicago, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

But Dr. al-Jabri’s standing inside the labyrinthine world that is the Saudi aristocracy changed suddenly in 2015, when King Abdullah died and was succeeded by King Salman. Salman then quickly began to rely on his son, Mohammed Bin Salman, who he eventually named as his successor. That meant that Dr. al-Jabri’s mentor and protector, Prince bin Nayef, was effectively usurped. Bin Salman abruptly fired Dr. al-Jabri in September of 2015, after he learned that Dr. al-Jabri had secretly visited Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan in Washington, to seek advice about the new king and his son.

In 2017, bin Nayef was abruptly fired from his post as Minister of Interior and went under house arrest in Saudi Arabia’s coastal resort city of Jeddah. That was effectively a bloodless palace coup, which purged bin Nayef and everyone who was closely associated with him. Fearing for his life, Dr. al-Jabri took his eldest son, Khalid, and escaped to Canada in the middle of the night. They remain there to this day.

Such purges are not uncommon in the bloody history of the Saudi Arabian royal court. But now the plot has thickened. On Monday, Dr. al-Jabri’s son, Khalid, said his two siblings, Omar and Sarah, were kidnapped by Saudi security forces. Speaking from Canada, Khalid al-Jabri said his siblings, who are in their early 20s, were kidnapped on March 16 by 50 masked security men who stormed the family’s house in Riyadh at dawn, having arrived there with 20 vehicles. The house was then searched and security cameras were destroyed before the men drove away with Dr. al-Jabri’s two children. They have not been seen since.

Dr. al-Jabri’s family allege that his two children are “being held as bargaining chips” by the Saudi monarchy, who are trying to compel their father to return to Saudi Arabia. Dr. al-Jabri says he fears immediate arrest and imprisonment as soon as he steps foot on Saudi soil. His family say they have been trying to negotiate with Saudi authorities and “meet on neutral ground”, but without results. Now they have decided to go public. “We were pushed into this”, says Khalid from his exile in Canada. “We are patriots, we love our country, we don’t want to embarrass Saudi Arabia. But kidnapping Omar and Sarah like this, it’s daylight thuggery by a state”.

The BBC said on Monday that it reached out to Saudi authorities requesting a comment on the allegations by Dr. al-Jabri’s family. As of today, Saudi authorities have not responded.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 May 2020 | Permalink

3 Responses to Exiled former intelligence official says Saudi government abducted his children

  1. Peter Parkinson says:

    Its an international crime to hold children/relatives for ransom to force somebody to return, Saudi Arabia does not adhere to people human right, just persevere with the international authorities.
    Money talks in Saudi Arabia make a financial offer, bring the family out and not return.

  2. My first baseless supposition is Iran may be blindly involved. Few would know in Iran. Iran’s maps if accurate — reveal palpable black holes, nearly.

  3. I say ‘baseless’ because I can’t make a good guess. Maps can also be tricky in such landforms.

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