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Catalina Lobo-Guerrero is a freelance journalist and anthropologist currently living in Barcelona, Spain. For the past decade she has been working as an investigative journalist and correspondent in Bogotá, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela where has written about politics, corruption, the armed conflict and violence. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, El País and other smaller and independent media outlets in Latin America.
Just as funeral prayers are being held in Saudi Arabia for murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, BBC's Arabic Investigation focuses on the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Once considered a liberal reformer in international power circles, he is now under scrutiny.
A secret informant inside the kingdom and other sources believe Khashoggi's was not the first murder carried out by people close to the crown prince. In November 2017, Mohammed bin Salman ordered the detention of other princes and members of the Saudi elite inside the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh. It was portrayed as an anti-corruption drive against those who were stealing money from the state, but credible testimonies from several sources reveal that some of the detainees were tortured—at least 17 people ended up at the hospital for injuries sustained during interrogation—and a mayor general, a senior officer in the Saudi national guard considered a "black box", was beaten to death.
According to sources, these punishments were authorised directly by Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom categorically denies the claims but one of the crown prince's closest aides, Saud al-Qahtani, who was in charge of the operation inside the Ritz Carlton, bragged about the way these royals were being "treated like dogs". Qahtani has stated publicly he doesn't act independently, but is just an executor of his majesty's royal orders.
The Saudis are now accusing Qahtani of being behind Khashoggi's death, carried out by what a source believes to be a special secret unit called the "tiger team," created to target the kingdom's enemies and dissidents, inside and outside the country. Qahtani, who had been pressuring and threatening Khashoggi, was believed to have given the execution order. The BBC learned Qahtani hasn't been back to his office since Khashoggi's death. Was Qahtani acting alone or following the prince's instructions, like he always said he was?