RIYADH: At least 20 princes have reportedly been detained in a stunning purge of princes, including King Salman's brother Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and his nephew, on suspicions of plotting a coup against Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
A report by the Middle East Eye (MEE) said: “Up to 20 princes have been arrested for allegedly being part of a coup to overthrow the crown prince.”
The MEE report claimed that four names had already been ascertained including: “Prince Ahmed; his son Prince Nayef bin Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, Head of Land Forces Intelligence and Security Authority; the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef; and his half-brother Nawaf.”
King Salman’s nephew is “the highest-ranking member of the Saudi Armed Forces known to be arrested so far,” the report said, reports the international media.
The arrests on Friday of the king’s younger and much-loved brother, Prince Ahmed, as well as the king's nephew and former counterterrorism czar, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, came after a number of observations had been made that they were provocative to leadership, one insider in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the arrests reported.
Both princes had served previously in the post of interior minister, overseeing security and surveillance inside the kingdom.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the arrests, quoting unidentified sources allied with the royal court as saying the princes were plotting a palace coup that would halt the rise of the crown prince.
The Journal has reported that the sweep had since broadened to include dozens of Interior Ministry officials, senior army officers and others suspected of supporting a coup attempt.
The two people who talked to The Associated Press declined to characterize the actions by the two princes as a coup attempt and agreed to discuss the highly sensitive security matter only if granted anonymity.
One added that the arrests had been made to send a message to those in the royal family feeling disenfranchised to stop grumbling and toe the line, saying that if Prince Ahmed could be arrested, any prince could and would be.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia released images of King Salman carrying out his royal duties on Sunday, after a stunning purge of at least three princes, including his brother and nephew, for allegedly plotting a coup.
Saudi royal guards Friday detained the trio, multiple sources told AFP, in a move that signals Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman´s tightening grip on power.
The detentions also raised speculation about the health of the 84-year-old king and whether Prince Mohammed´s succession to the Arab world´s most powerful throne was imminent.
But the official Saudi Press Agency posted photos of the king presiding over the swearing-in ceremony of newly appointed Saudi ambassadors to Ukraine and Uruguay.
A source close to the Saudi leadership told AFP on Saturday the "king is healthy and fine" and the detentions were meant to enforce "discipline" within the royal family.
The crown prince is "in control" and the purge was carried out "after an accumulation of negative behaviour by the two princes", this source added without elaborating.
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch´s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef were detained after they were accused of plotting a palace coup aimed at unseating the crown prince, heir to the Saudi throne, sources said.
Prince Nayef´s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, was also detained, they added.
The detentions mark the latest crackdown by Prince Mohammed, the king´s son who has consolidated his grip on power with the imprisonment of prominent clerics and activists as well as princes and businessmen.
He is already viewed as the de facto ruler, controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy.
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