Two senior princes in Saudi Arabia are under arrest for not supporting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated control of all major levers of power with the support of his father, King Salman, two people close to the royal family said Saturday.
The arrests on Friday of the king's younger and beloved brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdelaziz, and the king's nephew and former counterterrorism czar, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, came after an accumulation of behavior that was provocative to leadership, one person in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the arrests said.
Both princes had served previously in the post of interior minister, overseeing security and surveillance inside the kingdom.
The move came as a surprise, given that Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 60, was widely known to be under close surveillance since he was shunted out of the line of succession by the king's son in mid-2017, a person close to the royal court said.
The arrest of Prince Ahmed, 78, was also unexpected since he is the king's full younger brother and also a senior member of the ruling Al Saud family.
Prince Ahmed, however, has long held unfavorable views of the 34-year-old crown prince and was one of just a few senior princes to abstain from pledging allegiance to him when the young royal sidelined more senior princes to become first in line to the throne.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the arrests, quoting unidentified sources allied with the royal court as saying the princes were plotting a palace coup that would halt the rise of the crown prince. The Journal has since reported that the sweep broadened to include dozens of Interior Ministry officials, senior army officers and others suspected of supporting a coup attempt.
The two people who talked to The Associated Press declined to characterize actions by the two princes as a coup attempt. They agreed to discuss the highly sensitive matter related to security only if granted anonymity.
Source: National News Agency