The ruling family in Saudi Arabia has appointed Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud as the country’s new crown prince, making the current defense minister and former governor of the capital, Riyadh, heir to 88-year-old King Abdullah’s throne.
The appointment of Salman, 76, which was expected, comes two days after the death in Geneva of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, who died at the age of 78 while undergoing medical treatment.
Salman is believed to be less conservative than his late, hard-line brother, who maintained close links with Saudi Arabia’s powerful Wahhabi religious establishment and focused his energies on crushing Al Qaeda’s presence inside the kingdom.
However, Salman – who will remain as defense minister and become deputy prime minister – is, like Nayef, part of the Sudairi group, a faction made up of the sons born to King Abdul Aziz by a favoured wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudaira, according to the BBC.
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Nayef, who also served as interior minister, is to be replaced by Salman’s younger brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the Saudi Press Agency reported. US President Barack Obama released a statement Saturday praising Nayef’s support for a US-Saudi Arabian partnership against terrorism, according to CNN:
“Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives,” the president said.
The new crown prince previously became embroiled in controversy when he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by several insurance firms against Saudi Arabia, accusing the kingdom of channelling money to Al Qaeda through Saudi religious charities, the Associated Press reported.
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