Saudi officials arrest three members of royal family ‘over planned coup’

Saudi Arabia has reportedly arrested three members of the royal family for allegedly plotting to oust King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, are said to have been detained at their homes and charged with treason.

The men are among the kingdom’s most influential figures.

A royal cousin, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, is also alleged to have been detained.

The reports have emerged in US media and have yet to be officially confirmed although palace affairs in Saudi Arabia are often shrouded in secrecy.

Mohammed bin Salman is considered the de facto ruler of the kingdom after he was named crown prince by his father in 2016.

He has been lauded at home for easing social restrictions in the Muslim kingdom and opening up the economy.

But he has come under international criticism over the devastating war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Turkish consulate.

Bin Salman has also fuelled resentment among some branches of the ruling family by tightening his grip on power.

In 2017, he ordered the arrests of dozens of Saudi royal figures, ministers and businessmen.

Among those was bin Nayef, a once powerful figure who had been the crown prince until King Salman took away the title and put bin Salman first in line for the throne.

For the last few years, bin Nayef’s movements have been monitored and restricted.

Sources told the Wall Street Journal there are royals who are now questioning bin Salman’s ability to lead.

They said those royals seeking to change the line of succession view Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, as a possible choice.

They claim he would have support of family members, the security apparatus, and some Western powers.

Saudi insiders and Western diplomats say the family is unlikely to oppose the crown prince while the 84-year-old king remains alive, recognising that the king is unlikely to turn against his favourite son.

Prince Ahmed has largely kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in October 2018 after several months abroad.

During the trip, he appeared to criticise the Saudi leadership while responding to protesters outside a London residence chanting for the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.

He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling Al Saud family’s senior members, who opposed Mohammed bin Salman becoming crown prince in 2017, sources have earlier said.

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