Saudi Arabia sent mysterious ten-man security team to Norway amid activist death threats
Saudi Arabia sent a mysterious ten-man security team to Norway shortly before the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with fears that a hit squad might had been assembled to target a well-known critic of Riyadh residing in Oslo.
In 2018, Riyadh requested that the ten men sent to the Saudi embassy in Oslo and be registered by the Norwegian government as diplomats, an unusual request for security personnel, according to the Norwegian outlet Dagblandet.
Doing so would give the staff diplomatic immunity, ensuring they would not be arrested if suspected of committing a crime, and give them huge freedom to operate in Norway.
The Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs appeared to be alarmed by the request and notified police, saying that the security team was an unusually large squad given that the kingdom's embassy only employed 18 diplomats.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs intervened, and the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) has informed Iyad el-Baghdadi (43) - a Norway-based journalist, activist, and critic of the Saudi regime - about the incident," the article states.
Eventually, Norway agreed to register one member of the team as a diplomat, who is still working at the embassy as an attaché.
The events bear similarities to those surrounding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, a critic of the Riyadh government.
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El-Baghdadi met Khashoggi in Oslo several months before the Saudi journalist's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Saudi embassy security staff were implicated in the murder of Khashoggi, who was lured to the consulate with an offering of helping him complete paperwork.
There he was strangled to death and his body dismembered by an assassination team sent from Riyadh for the job, according to intelligence reports.
El-Baghdadi, who was given political asylum in Norway five-years-ago, was warned by the CIA about a possible threat to his life, after Saudi Arabia was accused of hacking the phone of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.
"The Saudi regime tried to send a 10-person security team to Norway and give them all diplomatic immunity. Their request was denied by Norway. This happened in the summer of 2018, before the Khashoggi murder," El-Baghdadi said in a tweet on Tuesday in response to the report.
Saudi Arabia responded to Dagblandet's requests for comment by forwarding a 2019 press release, which criticised "false" accusations against Riyadh.