Saudi Arabia denies deposed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has been confined to palace

King Salman's nephew, replaced last week by young and charismatic Mohammed bin Salman, allegedly barred from foreign travel and effectively placed under house arrest

Thursday 29 June 2017 10:18 BST
Former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was relieved of all his official duties by royal decree last week
Former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was relieved of all his official duties by royal decree last week (Getty Images)

Officials in Saudi Arabia have denied reports that the former next in line to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has been put under the watch of guards loyal to his successor and barred from leaving the country.

Prince bin Nayef, also formerly the country’s interior minister, was last week stripped of his positions and replaced by King Salman’s favourite son, the young economic reformist - but foreign policy hawk - Mohammed bin Salman.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Prince bin Nayef had been effectively put under house arrest at his palace in Jeddah and his security detail replaced with men loyal to Prince bin Salman, a move designed to head off any opposition to last week’s royal decree.

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Citing four current and former US officials working in Riyadh and Saudi sources close to the House of al-Saud, the NYT said it was unclear how long the restrictions on Prince bin Nayef’s freedom of movement were expected to last.

Speaking on Thursday, when questioned by Reuters on the report a Saudi official said,“It's not true, 100 percent,” without giving any further details.

During the reshuffle Saudi state media broadcast footage on loop of Prince bin Nayef pledging his allegiance to the new crown prince, eagerly emphasising the change over was going smoothly.

In celebration of the appointment, King Salman ordered the reinstatement of all benefits and allowances for government employees that have been curbed by recent austerity measures, and announced additional public holiday days off for Eid.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s star has risen along with his elderly father’s, who became king in 2015.

The media savvy prince is widely seen as the face of modern Saudi Arabia, and his promotion was expected - if not quite this soon.

His alleged impulsiveness and hawkish stance on the war in Yemen and Riyadh’s regional rival Iran has alarmed some; considering his youthful age, upon the death of his 81-year-old father, Prince bin Salman is expected to sit on the throne and thus mould Saudi Arabia for decades.

58-year-old Prince bin Nayef – who headed domestic security for many years – is known for his tough stance on jihadi militancy and maintained good relations with the kingdom’s western allies. He has recently been seen less and less in the public eye as rumours swirled over behind-the-scenes power struggles near the top of the royal house.

Notably, Prince bin Salman accompanied a royal delegation on a March visit to Washington DC to meet President Donald Trump’s administration, while Prince bin Nayef did not.

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