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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning in 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) authorized a secret campaign to crack down on dissidents, with at least a dozen of the operations carried out by members of the same team that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reports, citing "American officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign."

Details: The operations reportedly involved the kidnapping, detention, torture and, in some cases, the forced repatriation of Saudi citizens living abroad. Sources tell the Times that the team — known to American officials as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group — was so busy that it requested holiday bonuses from a top adviser to MBS last June.

Why it matters: After a series of evolving explanations, the Saudi government ultimately settled on the narrative that Khashoggi's murder was a "rogue operation" gone wrong and is now in the process of prosecuting 11 members of the team. This report suggests that the Khashoggi episode was not an isolated case, but rather "a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents."

The big picture: In February, President Trump refused to meet a congressional deadline for providing a report about who was responsible for Khashoggi's death. This follows a pattern of Trump refusing to condemn MBS — whom his administration has positioned as a key strategic ally — even in the face of reports that U.S. intelligence has concluded the young prince directly ordered the operation.

Go deeper

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

7 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.