In the months leading up to the gruesome assassination of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he wrote about how much he distrusted the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a collection of WhatsApp messages sent to a fellow Saudi. The collection of communications contained over 400 WhatsApp messages to an activist based in Montreal named Omar Abdulaziz.
Khashoggi described bin Salman to his activist comrade as a "beast" and a "Pac-man" who would devour everything in his past, and that even his supporters weren't safe from the mad prince. CNN gained access to the messages exchanged between the slain journalist and his activist friend.
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In one message sent by Khashoggi in May after several Saudi activists were arrested, he said, "The more victims he eats, the more he wants. I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on." In an interview with CNN, Abdulaziz said, "Jamal believed that MBS is the issue, is the problem and he said this kid should be stopped."
Khashoggi seemed particularly worried about his own safety in August, just two months before he would be brutally suffocated to death and his remains chopped into pieces. His fears increased when he feared that his messages had been intercepted and wrote to Abdulaziz, "God help us." Abdulaziz told CNN, "The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say. The guilt is killing me."
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The pair of Saudi exiles exchanged messages almost daily between October 2017 and August 2018 as Khashoggi and Abdulaziz began planning to form an "electronic army" that could mobilize young people back in their home country. The goal of the movement would include debunking state propaganda on social media and the pair dubbed their secret operation "cyber bees".
Abdulaziz wrote to Khashoggi in May of this year saying, "I sent you some ideas about the electronic army. By email." Khashoggi replied, "Brilliant report. I will try to sort out the money. We have to do something."
Khashoggi said of Mohammed in another exchange between the pair, "He loves force, oppression and needs to show them off, but tyranny has no logic." Words such as these are considered treasonous in Saudi Arabia and marked Khashoggi and his counterpart as enemies of the Crown Prince if the messages every came to light.
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The pair utilized encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and switched their method of communication frequently between other encrypted platforms such as Telegram and Signal. But this wouldn't be enough to avoid the Crown Prince's long reach and unlimited resources. Abdulaziz reported that two Saudi government emissaries requested a meeting in Montreal to which he agreed. He told CNN that he secretly recorded 10 hours of conversation between himself and the Saudi officials.
In the recordings, the Saudi officials mention Saud al Qathani, otherwise known as Mohammed's social media enforcer. Qathani is now fired and under investigation in Saudi Arabia as Turkey claims he was behind the slaying of Khashoggi. During the meeting, one of the men said, "If Saud al Qathani himself hears your name, he will immediately know and you can meet with Prince Mohammed directly."
They then suggested Abdulaziz travel to the Saudi embassy to pick up some paperwork but thanks to Khashoggi, he never went. "He told me not to go and only to meet them in public places," he said in his interview with CNN. Abdulaziz credits Khashoggi's advice with saving his life, unfortunately, he did not follow his own advice and went to the Saudi consulate in Turkey where he was brutally murdered, dismembered, and disappeared.
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