The death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has put the spotlight on the country’s heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman (or MbS, as he’s known).
Khashoggi, a critic of the Crown Prince, was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 2. Turkish officials said there was evidence he’d been murdered, dismembered and removed.
Just days ago Crown Prince Salman denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate. But this morning, Saudi Arabia said an investigation had found Khashoggi died in a fight inside the consulate and that 18 Saudis had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Here’s what we know about the Crown Prince, his rise to power and his leadership.
Just a few years ago, Mohammed bin Salman was relatively unknown
That changed when his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who previously spent four decades as governor of Riyadh, ascended to the throne in January 2015 following the death of his half-brother Abdullah.
At the time, Mohammed bin Salman was named deputy crown prince — behind his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef — and defence minister.
But last year he replaced his cousin as Crown Prince, making him the most powerful figure in the country by some stretch after his father.
Mohammed bin Salman represented a generational change for the normally secretive Saudi ruling class, with his bearded features regularly appearing on TV screens and street billboards.
King Salman is 82 years old. If the Crown Prince goes on to become king in his 30s, he will be the youngest monarch of the modern state.
The 33-year-old already looks after the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia
Crown Prince Salman has been given increasing authority to run the conservative kingdom.
In the last few years, he’s implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms, including ending a ban on women driving, and opening cinemas.
But his reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen. He’s also consolidated control over Saudi Arabia’s security and intelligence agencies.
The Crown Prince was seen as being the key figure behind the decision to sever ties with Qatar.
Questions have now been asked of the Crown Prince’s leadership in the wake of Khashoggi’s death
Five sources with links to the Saudi royal family have told Reuters the fallout has been so grave that his father has had to intervene.
That included King Salman’s decision to dispatch his most trusted aide, Mecca governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal, to Istanbul to try to defuse the crisis.
The sources say there is growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about Crown Prince Salman’s fitness to govern.
This morning, it was also announced that King Salman had ordered the dismissal of Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor seen as the Crown Prince’s right-hand.
So far, the United States has backed Saudi Arabia’s version of events
US President Donald Trump called the death of Khashoggi “unacceptable”, but said he thought Saudi Arabia’s explanation of what happened was credible.
He also said the arrests in Saudi Arabia were a “big first step” and that he would prefer not to jeopardise America’s $US110 billion arms deal with the country.
However, others have expressed scepticism about Saudi Arabia’s claims, including some from Mr Trump’s own party.
Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen called the Saudi statement a cover-up.
The Trump administration has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. Last year, Mr Trump chose the country as his first overseas stop as President, which is where the massive arms deal was announced.