Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has died and is to be buried in Mecca on Sunday, state media have reported.
The official SPA news agency published a statement from the Gulf kingdom’s 89-year-old King Abdullah saying that Nayef – who also held the posts of deputy prime minister and interior minister – had died “abroad” on Saturday, after leaving Saudi Arabia to undergo medical treatment in Switzerland late last month.
According to Reuters, Nayef, who was believed to be 78 years old, was appointed crown prince in October following the death of his older brother Crown Prince Sultan. Nayef’s death will now force King Abdullah to name a new heir, with 76-year-old Prince Salman – who is also defence minister – expected to be next in line.
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Rules of succession in Saudi Arabia mean that power still passes among the sons of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, who created the kingdom whilst on the throne between 1932 and 1953, the BBC reported.
According to the Associated Press, Nayef was viewed both inside and outside the kingdom as a hard-line, conservative figure, whose primary concern was crushing Al Qaeda’s presence in the kingdom whilst maintaining close links with Saudi Arabia’s powerful Wahhabi religious establishment.