Saudi Arabia in royal purge over ‘coup plot’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the GCC summit in Riyadh on 10 December (Bandar al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

Saudi authorities have detained three princes including King Salman’s brother and nephew for allegedly plotting a coup, three sources told AFP Saturday, signalling the de facto ruler’s tightening grip on power.

The detentions, which cast aside the last vestiges of potential opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, come at a sensitive time as the petro-state grapples with plunging oil prices and limits access to Islam’s holiest sites over fears of the new coronavirus.

Royal guards detained Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on Friday after they were accused of plotting a palace coup aimed at unseating the crown prince — heir to the Saudi throne — an Arab official and a Western official told AFP.

Prince Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, was also detained, they added.

A number of military and interior ministry officials accused of supporting the coup plot had also been rounded up, the Western official said, citing Saudi government sources.
“With this purge, no rivals remain to stop the crown prince’s succession to the throne,” he said.

The detentions raised speculation about the health of the 84-year-old king and whether the crown prince’s succession to the Arab world’s most powerful throne was imminent.
But another source close to the Saudi leadership told AFP the “king is healthy and fine” and the detentions were meant to enforce “discipline” within the royal family.

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