The 15 Saudis who flew to Turkey before Khashoggi’s killing

Al Jazeera profiles the 15 men who travelled to Istanbul to allegedly carry out Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi suspects
Turkish sources say Khashoggi was seized by the 15 Saudi intelligence officers when he entered the consulate in Istanbul [Al Jazeera]

Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 people and dismissed five senior government officials as part of an investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain documents that he needed to get married.

After weeks of saying he left the consulate alive, the Saudi administration later admitted Khashoggi was killed there, blaming his death on a group of rogue Saudi operatives.

Turkish sources, however, say 15 Saudi intelligence operatives flew to Istanbul on two private jets hours before Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered. 

A close aide to MBS, Qahtani was removed as adviser to the royal court after the killing [Twitter]
A close aide to MBS, Qahtani was removed as adviser to the royal court after the killing [Twitter]

Most among the group of 15 worked in the Saudi military, security or intelligence services, including at the royal court, according to Turkish officials and sources with ties to the royal court.

Reports said the Saudi foreign ministry, headed by Adel al-Jubeir, issued the passports to the hit squad to enter Turkey. 

The private jets from Riyadh to Istanbul and back were chartered from a company owned by the Saudi government.

Turkey’s Sabah newspaper published what it said were photographs of the men taken from surveillance footage at the airport, two hotels they briefly checked into, the consulate, and the consul’s residence.

Saud al-Qahtani, 40, is the highest-profile figure implicated in the killing. Believed to be the right-hand man of Prince Mohammed, he was removed as a royal court adviser following Khashoggi’s assassination.

Qahtani, however, was not a part of the 15-member squad that flew to Turkey. 


Al Jazeera profiles the men part of the hit-squad suspected to be behind the killing, based on photographs, reports and information from officials in Turkey and Saudi Arabia:

Salah al-Tubaigy 

Salah al-Tubaigy is a forensic expert at the Saudi interior ministry’s criminal evidence department, according to his biography posted online by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.

According to the Turkish newspaper, Sabah, the Saudi group that dismembered Khashoggi’s body in a 15-minute process was led by Tubaigy.

The Saudi Society of Forensic Medicine lists him as a board member. He earned a master’s degree in forensic medicine from the University of Glasgow in 2004. 

In 2015, Tubaigy spent three months at Australia’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine to observe death investigation procedures and the use of CT scans in mass fatality incidents, director Noel Woodford told Reuters news agency.

He is 47, according to a passport copy provided to the US media by Turkish officials.

Maher Mutreb, an aide to al-Qahtani.

Maher Mutreb 

General Maher Mutreb, aide to al-Qahtani for information and security, was the lead negotiator inside the consulate, according to a senior Saudi official.

He is a senior intelligence officer and has appeared in photographs with the crown prince on official visits to the United States and Europe.

Reuters, quoting a Saudi official, said Mutreb was selected for the Istanbul operation because he already knew Khashoggi when they worked together at the Saudi embassy in London.

Sabah newspaper published photographs from surveillance cameras that appear to show Mutreb entering the consulate three hours before Khashoggi, and later outside the consul’s residence.

Meshal Saad Albostani

Meshal Saad Albostani, a lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force, is from the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, according to a Facebook profile that has been deleted.

A LinkedIn profile, that was also deleted, said he served in the air force since 2006, Reuters reported.

He is 31, according to a passport copy provided to the US media by Turkish officials.

Mustafa Mohammed al-Madini, government employee.
Mustafa Mohammed al-Madini, government employee.

Mustafa Mohammed al-Madini 

Moustafa al-Madani led the intelligence efforts for the 15-member team in Istanbul, a senior Saudi official told Reuters.

According to the official, Madini donned Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and Apple watch, and left through the back door of the consulate in an attempt to make it look like the journalist had walked out of the building.

Madini is a government employee who studied at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, according to a Facebook profile with photographs resembling the suspect identified by Turkish media.

He is 56 years old, according to the US Treasury. 

Other members of the team:

Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi, 31, is a member of the security team that travels with the Saudi crown prince, according to a New York Times report that cited a French professional who had worked with the royal family.

Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi: A Saudi news report last year said that a man by the same name was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Saudi army, the Washington Post reported.

Mohammed Saad al-Zahrani: A popular Arabic app, MemoM3ay, identified him as being in the Royal Guard, a unit of the Saudi military charged with protecting the royal family, according to the Washington Post. He denied being in Turkey at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Khalid Aedh G al-Otaibi: In the MenoM3ay app, he is identified with a symbol for the Royal Guard, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Waleed Abdulla al-Sehri: According to reports in the Saudi media, he is a part of the country’s air force. 

There is a YouTube video showing Sehri as a Saudi air officer, reading a poem to a gathering of military officials in 2012, according to the Middle East Eye.

Naif Hassan al-Arifi: A deleted Facebook page of a man with the same name shows him as an officer in the Saudi special forces.

Mansour Othman M Abahussain: A man with the same name has been identified in the MenoM3ay app as working for the Saudi intelligence. 

Fahad Shabib al-Balawi: Identified as a member of the Saudi Royal Guard by two users of the MenoM3ay app.

Saif Saad al-Qahtani: Identified in the app as working in the service of MBS, according to the Washington Post.

No information is available on the following men, who were also a part of the 15-member squad:

  • Badr Lafi M al-Otaibi
  • Turki Musarref M al-Sehri

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies