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Khashoggi’s says Saudis knew about secret project they were working on

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jamal khashoggi
Holding
a poster of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, a man stands
near the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Friday, Oct. 5,
2018.

Associated Press/Emrah
Gurel


  • A friend of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said
    they were working on a secret project together that the Saudi
    government apparently knew about before he disappeared. 
  • The project, dubbed “the bees,” aimed to build an online army
    by providing Saudi activists with foreign SIM cards to avoid
    government detection. 
  • Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in
    Istanbul on October 2, and is feared dead. 

A friend of Saudi journalist Jamal
Khashoggi
said they were working on a secret project together
that the Saudi government apparently knew about before he
disappeared. 

Omar Abdulaziz, a 27-year-old Saudi national and opposition
activist,
told The Washington Post
he’d enlisted Khashoggi to help him
a project they called “the bees.”

The project aimed to undermine a group of pro-Saudi government
trolls on social media by building an online army using foreign
SIM cards. Twitter requires a phone number to verify accounts, so
having a foreign number can help activists avoid being traced and
arrested by the Saudi government.

Khashoggi at one point reportedly gave Abdulaziz $5,000 for
the project, though he told The Post that Kashoggi also expressed
concerns to him that it was too “dangerous.”

Abdulaziz told The Post that two men with connections to
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s
suspected of orchestrating Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged
killing
, for months pressured him to return to his home
country.

Khashoggi reportedly warned him not to accept any offers
from the men, advising Abdulaziz that it was a ploy by the crown
prince to lure dissidents back to Saudi Arabia before arresting
them. 

The two men at one point met with Abdulaziz in a Montreal cafe,
delivering a personal message from the crown prince. Abdulaziz
secretly recorded the conversation, and provided the recording to
The Post. The meeting reportedly occurred on May 15. 

The Post reported that the file data shows the recording was made
at the times Abdulaziz said, and WhatsApp messages from the men
also backed up his claims. 

Initially, the men reportedly offered Abdulaziz money to return
home, but he was eventually threatened with prison. Abdulaziz
said his two of his younger brothers and eight of his friends
were arrested in Saudi Arabia in early August, apparently in
retribution for his refusal to cooperate. 

When Abdulaziz contacted the men who attempted to convince him to
return to his native country, he said they alerted him that the
Saudi government knew about “the bees.” 

The Saudi foreign ministry did not answer inquiries from The Post
about Abdulaziz’s claims. 

According to US intelligence intercepts
recently reported on by The Post
, the crown prince also
sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia in a similar
manner. This is apparently part of a broader trend from the crown
prince to crack down on dissents and send a message to activists
they’re not safe no matter where they are in the world. 

Khashoggi, who was often critical of the Saudi government in his
reporting, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in
Istanbul in early October. Saudi leadership, including the crown
prince, vehemently deny allegations they orchestrated the
journalist’s killing. But they’ve provided no evidence he safely
departed the consulate, and it’s been over two weeks since
Khashoggi went missing. 

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