Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman has died, according to an announcement by Omani state television and the state news agency early on Saturday.
“With sadness … the Omani Sultanate court mourns … our Sultan Qaboos bin Said … who God chose to be by his side on Friday evening,” the agency said.
It added that Qaboos died after “a wise and triumphant march rich with generosity that embraced Oman and extended to the Arab, Muslim and entire world, and achieved a balanced policy that the whole world respected”.
A three-day period of mourning has been declared in Oman and the country’s flag will be flown at half-mast for 40 days.
Oman’s royal family will have to decide in 72 hours who will replace Qaboos.
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Qaboos, the longest-ruling Arab monarch, had been ill for some time and was believed to have been suffering from colon cancer. He had spent a week in Belgium undergoing medical treatment in early December.
Sultan Qaboos, 79, ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless coup in 1970.
Since assuming power, Qaboos transformed Oman from an isolated backwater, with little or no infrastructure, into a modern state.
But his prolonged absence for treatment has stirred questions over succession in the country of 4.5 million people.
He had recently returned to the capital, Muscat, after medical treatment in Germany and Belgium.
Transition of power
In October 2011, Qaboos, who has no children or brothers, amended the process of succession. But he has not publicly announced who that successor would be.