Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman uses a team of mercenaries called the "Tiger Squad" to carry out extrajudicial kidnapping and killings, a former top Saudi spymaster claimed to 60 Minutes in an interview.
"It was created to do the dirty job for MBS," Saad Aljabri told correspondent Scott Pelley.
Formerly the number two official in Saudi intelligence, Aljabri was a top adviser to Mohammed bin Nayef, the nephew of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Bin Salman replaced bin Nayef as heir to the Saudi throne in a 2017 royal palace purge. At the time, Aljabri had already left Saudi Arabia, saying he no longer felt safe. After the coup, he fled to Canada, where he now lives in exile.
Aljabri told Pelley that Mohammed bin Salman formed his "Tiger Squad" in 2015. Aljabri says bin Salman had approached him and asked him to kidnap Saudi princes in Europe, whom he says bin Salman perceived as being politically against him. Aljabri said he refused, telling bin Salman he would not do anything to damage the reputation of Saudi intelligence.
"He turned to find his own people since that time," Aljabri said.
The "Tiger Squad" has been named in investigations into the 2018 murder of Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The U.S. Treasury in February 2021 sanctioned the group, which is also called the "Rapid Intervention Force," for their role in Khashoggi's murder.
According to Saad Aljabri, Khashoggi was not the only target bin Salman dispatched his "Tiger Squad" to kill. The former spymaster told Pelley bin Salman also sent another hit team to kill him in Canada in October 2018.
In a lawsuit Aljabri filed in U.S. federal court in Washington D.C. last year, Aljabri elaborated on the alleged plot against him by bin Salman's men.
"Like the team that murdered Khashoggi, those sent to kill Dr. Saad … were also members of Defendant bin Salman's personal mercenary group, the Tiger Squad," Aljabri's complaint reads. "Carrying two bags of forensic tools, and complete with forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes … the Tiger Squad Defendants attempted to enter Canada covertly, traveling on tourist visas and seeking to avert the detection of Canadian border security by entering through separate kiosks."
Aljabri's complaint went further, alleging that the plot to kill him, like Khashoggi's murder, was not a one-off incident. Instead, the complaint reads, it was illustrative of how bin Salman operated. Because of this, a whistleblower approached Aljabri in 2016 to warn him of bin Salman's "Tiger Squad," which under the crown prince's direction, was carrying out "extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture," according to the legal complaint.
"It was why the official security ministries of the Saudi government itself surveilled and fastidiously documented Defendant bin Salman's Tiger Squad as early as 2016, fearful of the lawless activities of a dangerously empowered royal," Aljabri's complaint reads.
In his interview with 60 Minutes, Aljabri told Pelley that bin Salman sees himself in the likeness of another royal — Alexander the Great. Aljabri said the first time he met bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince told him he wanted to be like the Macedonian king, who, at a young age, established one of the largest empires in the ancient world.
60 Minutes reached out to bin Salman for comment through the Saudi government and his attorney in Washington. The broadcast asked about the "Tiger Squads" and other allegations Aljabri made. In a statement emailed to 60 Minutes, the Saudi Embassy in Washington responded, writing:
"Saad Aljabri is a discredited former government official with a long history of fabricating and creating distractions to hide the financial crimes he committed, which amount to billions of dollars, to furnish a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family. He has not denied his crimes; in fact he implies that stealing was acceptable at the time. But it wasn't acceptable nor legal then, and it isn't now. The reforms led by the Crown Prince have put an end to this type of gross corruption. Today, the nation's revenues are used to fund unprecedented economic and social development, invest in technology, contribute to the diversification of the economy, the empowerment of youth and women, and the building of a nation in which tolerance, moderation, innovation and entrepreneurship prevail -- the antithesis of what Aljabri was seeking when he committed his crimes."