RIYADH: Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who led Saudi Arabia’s terrorism fight while in his dual role as interior minister, has died. He was in his late 70s.
The death of the heir-apparent to King Abdullah was announced yesterday by state television, which cited a Royal Court statement. Details of his death weren’t given. The Swiss government said he died in Geneva, according to an e-mailed statement. Nayef left Saudi Arabia last month for scheduled medical tests and a vacation, the Royal Court said at the time without elaborating. The prince also had medical tests in March in Cleveland.
Nayef (see AP Photo) had been Saudi Arabia’s most powerful prince amid the turmoil that has rocked the region. He put down attacks by al- Qaeda and backed the religious police in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, the world’s largest oil producer. He was the second crown prince to die in less than a year, renewing questions about succession as the Saudi leadership ages. The king named him Oct. 28 to succeed Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who was born in 1935, followed Crown Prince Sultan as defense minister.
“I don’t think this will have any impact on the stability of the country,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said in a phone interview. “The selection process is pretty clear. Prince Salman will most likely become the next crown prince.”
Nayef’s death comes as Saudi Arabia confronts unemployment, an issue cited by some activists during the unrest that led to the toppling of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya during the so-called Arab Spring that began in December 2010. Joblessness reached 27% for Saudis between 20 and 30 years old in 2009, according to official data.
King Abdullah unveiled a US$130 billion spending plan in the first quarter of 2011, including allowances for government workers and salary increases for military personnel.
Six kings have ruled Saudi Arabia since it was established in 1932. Abdullah changed the kingdom’s succession rules in 2007 to give an appointed commission of princes, the Allegiance Council, more power to select a new ruler.
Nayef was one of the influential brothers known as the Sudairi Seven, the sons of the kingdom’s founder, King Abdulaziz Al Saud, and one of his wives, Hassa bint-Ahmed al-Sudairi. The late crown prince was born in 1934, according to the website of the Saudi Embassy in Washington. His Institute for Research and Consulting Services at the Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University said he was born in 1933. Neither provided his date of birth. (Bloomberg/aph)