- REUTERS/Amir Levy
The Turkish government reportedly told US officials on Thursday that it has audio and video recordings suggesting the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during his visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.
Khashoggi, who was living in Virginia under self-imposed exile, is known as an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Earlier this week, The New York Times described a senior US official as saying Turkish authorities believe that Khashoggi was killed on orders from the “highest levels of the royal court.”
Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg last week, “We have nothing to hide.”
Few people had heard of Prince Mohammed before his father, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, became king in 2015.
King Salman, 82, subsequently elevated his son Mohammed, 33, to crown prince in June 2017. And he has since been widely seen as the driving force behind an anti-corruption purge that has detained several leading Saudi government and business leaders.
Here’s the story behind Prince Mohammed’s meteoric rise.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was born on August 31, 1985, to King Salman and Princess Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan, one of the king’s four wives.
Prince Mohammed was raised in a walled complex the size of a city block in Riyadh with his mother, five brothers, and a staff of 50 servants, cooks, drivers and more. His father, who was then the governor of Riyadh, a son of Ibn Saud.
In 1932, after a series of civil wars, Ibn Saud united the kingdom under the House of Saud, one of the last remaining absolute monarchies.
Prince Mohammed would later earn a bachelor’s degree in law at King Saud University, where he was ranked one of the top 10 students. In 2009, after working in several firms and government positions, he was appointed special adviser to his father.
- Saudi Embassy
Prince Mohammed would also found a nonprofit group called the Misk Foundation to help Saudi youth develop new businesses. In 2013, Forbes Middle East honored him as “Personality of the Year” for his work with the foundation.
Source: Al Jazeera
In January 2015, Prince Mohammed was appointed Saudi’s defense minister and deputy crown prince by his father, who had just been elevated to King Salman.
- Muhammad Hamed – Pool /Getty Images
Among the new defense minister’s first moves was to crack down on Tehran, launching the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen through a military campaign known as Operation Decisive Storm.
The war in Yemen has since become one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, with thousands killed and millions on the brink of starvation. The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of carrying out unlawful airstrikes, while the Houthis have been accused of several human-rights abuses, including unlawful detentions and using child soldiers.
In April 2016, Prince Mohammed, who also led the Saudi Council for Economic Affairs and Development, announced an ambitious initiative called “Vision 2030” that sought to diversify and privatize the Saudi economy and make it less dependent on oil.
Prince Mohammed also announced plans to create a $3 trillion wealth fund – partially by selling 5% of Aramco – as well as several social reforms, including allowing women to work more.
King Salman had initially named Mohammed bin Nayef, Prince Mohammed’s cousin, as crown prince. But in June 2017, the monarch reversed the decision, and Prince Mohammed has since sought to consolidate his power.
- REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
In September 2017, Prince Mohammed had more than 20 clerics and intellectuals who had been critical of his new policies arrested, accusing them of having ties to foreign powers such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar.
- REUTERS/Amir Levy
A few months later, he launched a supposed anti-corruption purge that was largely seen as a consolidation of his power. It led to the arrests of 11 princes, four ministers, and multiple powerful business leaders.
Source: Business Insider
Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed has also initiated several social reforms aimed at modernizing the kingdom, including allowing women to drive and attend sports matches.
- Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Last week, news broke that Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who frequently wrote scathing columns that contradicted Prince Mohammed’s image as a moderate reformer, had disappeared after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
- Osman Orsal/Reuters
Prince Mohammed has been linked to Khashoggi’s disappearance. Several news outlets reported that Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi nationals who flew to Istanbul and visited the consulate on October 2, the day of the journalist’s disappearance, and left hours later. The officials are said to believe the orders came from the “highest levels of the royal court.”
US lawmakers and business leaders, including the Trump administration, have begun to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia.