Saudi Arabia has detained two senior members of the royal family – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew – according to reports citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Wall Street Journal reported the detentions of the two royals on Friday and said they related to an alleged coup attempt. Bloomberg also reported the detentions, quoting a source as saying that the pair were accused of “treason”.
Mohammed bin Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, had also been detained, according to the New York Times.
There was no immediate comment by Saudi authorities.
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The detentions mark the latest crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s son and the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, has moved to consolidate power since replacing his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne in 2017. Later that year, he arrested dozens of royals and business people, in what was billed as a move against corruption that was draining state coffers.
But the crown prince has fuelled resentment among some prominent branches of the ruling family by tightening his grip on power and some question his ability to lead following the 2018 murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents and a major attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last year, sources have told Reuters news agency.
The sources said royals seeking to change the line of succession view Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, as a possible choice who would have the support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers.
In late 2018, a video emerged of Prince Ahmed facing protesters outside his London residence and in which he seemed to criticise King Salman and his crown prince for the war in Yemen.
“Don’t blame the entire family … Those responsible are the king and his crown prince” he said. “In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow.”
Though Prince Ahmed quickly retracted his comments, insisting that his words were taken out of context, messages of support and pledges of allegiance began pouring in.
The 78-year-old also issued a statement to deny speculation that he was interested in the role of monarch.