Conflicting accounts of the killing of General Abdulaziz al-Faghem and an irregular confirmation of his death by official sources have led to a rise in speculation that foul play was involved, or at worst a coup within the House of Saud.
A longstanding personal bodyguard to the current King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, was allegedly shot and killed by a friend during a disagreement in Jeddah, according to an official Saudi press agency report on Sunday, September 29.
But the official report provided very little detail on the motive or circumstances of his death, as activists and citizens of Saudi Arabia were quick to find inconsistencies in the official narrative.
The official state news agency added that “the killer resisted security forces and refused to surrender and was later killed”.
The kingdom’s narrative, which has come under heavy fire, alleges that General Abdulaziz al Faghem, a senior member of the Saudi Royal Guard was visiting his friend, Turki bin Abdulaziz al Sabti at his summer residence when the soon-to-be-killer Mamdouh bin Mishaal al Ali joined the gathering.
Shortly after, the statement said: “Tensions rose between Al Faghem and Al Ali, as the latter went out of the house and returned with a gun which he fired, killing Al Faghem and wounding two people in the house, including a Filipino domestic worker.”
Ali was allegedly killed after refusing to surrender to security forces surrounding the house, resulting in a firefight that left five security forces injured. The first statement regarding Faghem indicated he was killed at the scene, while another stated he died afterwards, published the next morning.
However, it appears that Faghem was warned he could be a target.
On May 19, Mohammed al Masari, Founder of the Islamic Renewal Party, warned Faghem in a tweet stating: “Abdulaziz al-Faghem: Your voice is terrified on the walkie-talkie. Your group has fallen into evil. You appear to have wet your military suit. Tomorrow Mohammed bin Salman will step on your head and that of your group, and replace you with Colombians from Blackwater.”
Masari went on to warn him, urging him to escape: “My advice to you: Do not be a donkey, like Otaiba in the Istanbul Consulate… seek refuge somewhere at the end of the earth in Australia or New Zealand before all is lost.”
In an interview with Aljazeera Arabic, Yahya al Assiri, a Saudi Arabian human rights activist and close confidant of the late Jamal Khashoggi, claims that the official narrative is “confused”, and that indicates the authorities are hiding something.
“The Saudi narrative is confused, and it did not originate from Saudi authorities directly, but was posted by bots and mouthpiece accounts publishing names and the entire story without a single statement from Saudi officials,” said Assiri.
He goes on to question: “How did it reach their bot networks first of all, being published in moments? Furthermore, why was such a poor chain of events published, which led to Faghem’s nephew responding by saying the official story was incorrect?”
In his tweet, Faghem’s nephew writes: “May God have mercy on my uncle, General Abdulaziz al Faghem after his death in his friend’s house, deceitfully, at the hand of a third friend to them, yesterday Saturday evening.”
After deleting the first tweet, he would tweet it again, adding the line: “He was a man who found honor [sic] in service to his nation and kings closely, and thus, he is our shared honor. We are from God, and unto God we shall return.”
But deleting tweets seems to have been the norm on that day. Faghem’s son, nephew and father all tweeted their reactions to the events before tweeting an identical response that looked highly similar to that of the first person to tweet about the events.
The questions regarding the absence of an official statement were compounded by the fact that the killing was first reported by Nayef bin Uwayd, a bot account in existence since the early 2010s, that acts as a government propaganda mouth-piece.
Shortly after the death, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s office director also tweeted his condolences, praying to God to “forgive him”, well before an official press release was issued.
In an interview with TRT World, Dr Osama Fawzi, Arab Times Editor reveals lurid details about an alleged power struggle within the House of Saud.
He relates an alleged chain of events that he claims took place before the murder of General al Faghem, which TRT World could not independently verify.
According to Fawzi, a source close to the Emirati ruling family of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed informed him that the Saudi crown prince was tipped off to a decision taken by King Salman bin Abdelaziz to revoke his title to the throne, and instead appoint MBS’s uncle, his brother Ahmed bin Abdelaziz.
King Salman allegedly further ordered the late General al Faghem to isolate the young crown prince, disband the personal force of Colombian and Peruvian mercenaries he had received from the Emirates, and have the decision declared.
According to the Emirati source, MBS blamed Faghem for leaking information about his failed exploits to his father, and proverbially poisoning the well, after which he allegedly had Faghem killed, while putting his father and uncle under house arrest.
Social media users in Saudi Arabia have taken to asking questions regarding the narrative’s chain of events, finding little in the way of answers.
Fahd Ghuwaydi, tweets: “How did the killer know his location? If the killer intends to kill, would he not wait outside the house? And if he did not intend to kill, why was he armed to kill?”
He explains: “The official story is ‘unconvincing’ because of the unreasonable chain of events.
“The house is ‘assaulted’ by an ‘armed man’, and due to a personal disagreement, he fires on him, killing him and injuring their shared friend, then attempts to flee, and is surprised by the presence of ‘security forces outside the house’, after which he exchanges gunfire with them, and is killed.”
Questions are also being posed as to why news of his death was first leaked on Twitter by government-linked accounts, followed much later by an official press release by the Mecca province police department. Given Faghem’s stature and high visibility throughout the kingdom, a more public and senior declaration is argued to have been the norm.
Official Saudi sources have given no explanations as to why they did not play a role in preventing the killer from returning to the house with a weapon.
Others took to social media recalling similar incidents where liabilities were liquidated under suspicious circumstances, not the least of whom was Jamal Khashoggi.