Saudi king removes his half-brother as crown prince and replaces him with counterterrorism czar following arrest of 93 suspected ISIS members
- King Salman has named his counterterrorism czar the new crown prince
- Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is now next in line to the throne after shakeup
- Nayef previously headed a crackdown on al-Qaeda in the region
- He was named crown prince after Saudi officials confirmed 93 people – 77 of them Saudis – had been arrested for suspected connections to ISIS
- Nayef replaces the King’s half brother Prince Muqrin as new crown prince
The move comes after 93 people were arrested in Saudi Arabia – 77 of them believed to be Saudis -on suspicion of having links to ISIS and members of the extremist group who were believed to be planning a car bomb attack on a US embassy.
King Salman named his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who is the country’s Interior Minister and counterterrorism czar as crown prince, securing him as the most likely successor to King Salman.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef headed a crackdown on Al-Qaeda in the oil-rich kingdom a decade ago.
A royal decree was issued stipulating that he takes over the post of crown prince from Prince Muqrin.
The royal decree also announced that the king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been appointed deputy crown prince. He is believed to be around 30 years old and is also the country’s defense minister, recently playing a key role in a Saudi-led coalition conducting air strikes on Yemeni rebels. As deputy crown prince, he is essentially seen as being second in line to the throne.
Announcements were made after it was confirmed yesterday that 93 people had been arrested in Saudi Arabia over suspected links to ISIS extremists, some of whom were plotting to drive a car-bomb into a United States Embassy.
The alleged terrorists belong to several different cells, including one of more than 60 extremists who were trying to set up militant training camps in the Middle East, police in the country claimed.
Officials said the plan was concocted by two Syrians and a Saudi, adding that one Syrian and the Saudi have since been arrested.
The foiled car-bomb suicide attack would have taken place in March at the embassy in Riyadh – coinciding with a decision taken on by U.S. officials to halt all consular services starting March 15 at the embassy over security fears.
Some of those arrested had also tried to assassinate a member of the Saudi military, the government owned Al-Arabiya news network reported.
The 93 arrests are thought to have taken place since December.
One cell, which authorities said contained at least 61 Saudis, is believed to have tried to recruit members via social media, raise funds and establish training camps inside the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is an ally of the U.S. against ISIS, and has been taking part in bombing raids on Islamic State positions.
Also affected by King Salmon’s reshuffle was longtime Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal who was replaced wtih Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s current ambassador to the U.S. His appointment is unusual as the post is usually held by a member of the ruling family.
Under Salman, King Saudi Arabia has adopted a more assertive foreign policy, leading the Arab-dominated coalition targeting Iran-backed rebels in neighbouring Yemen since late March.
He replaces Prince Saud al-Faisal who had held the post since 1975, making him the world’s longest-serving foreign minister. The decree said Prince Saud has been appointed as an adviser and a special envoy of the king, as well as a supervisor on foreign affairs.
The new appointments create a new generation of Saudi princes who are now in the line of succession.
Prince Muqrin, who was crown prince until Wednesday’s reshuffle, is the youngest son of the founder of Saudi Arabia, the late King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. At 69 years old, he once headed the kingdom’s intelligence agency, but was largely seen as a transitional figure in his post as crown prince.
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