Saudi officials arrested two members of the royal family for allegedly plotting to oust King Salman

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Saudi officials arrested two members of the royal family early Friday for allegedly plotting to oust King Salman and the son he has designated to succeed him, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The royal court detained one of the king’s brothers, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and one of his nephews, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Both men were arrested at their homes and charged with treason.

Mohammed bin Nayef, a once powerful figure as head of Saudi counterterrorism efforts, had been crown prince until 2017, when King Salman took away the title and put his son first in line for the throne of the longtime U.S. ally.

The detentions come at a time when fears about the impact of the coronavirus have slashed the price of oil, the main source of the kingdom’s revenue, and the crown prince’s celebrated plans to diversify the Saudi economy have fallen behind his promises.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, who for a time had been the great hope of family members and other critics who wished to block Crown Prince Mohammed, 34, from taking the throne.

Mohammed bin Nayef, is also a former interior minister . He had developed close ties to American intelligence agencies during years of work together while he was interior minister. He was ousted from both of those roles by the current crown prince in 2017 and he has effectively been under house arrest since then.One possible motive for the detentions may have to do with the aging of Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman, 84. The crown prince could be seeking to lock down potential challengers to his own succession before his father dies or abdicates the throne.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the former crown prince, had once been perceived as the most significant rival to the current crown prince on his path to power. As interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef controlled one of the country’s three armed forces, along with the military and the national guard, giving him significant leverage in any power struggle. His closeness with Washington was also perceived as an asset within the royal family.

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman not only ousted but also humiliated his predecessor in 2017. Aides to the current crown prince physically forced his predecessor to relinquish his roles, detaining him for a prolonged period and depriving him of needed medicines.

Then aides to Crown Prince Mohammed froze Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s assets, banned him from travel and started a social media campaign charging that he had become addicted to pain killers and other drugs. Stripped of his power and freedom of movement, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef also appeared to have largely acquiesced to his successor’s grip on the kingdom.

A person familiar with his arrest said that on Thursday evening armed men in black uniforms and face masks had appeared at Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s desert camp outside Riyadh, a place where he often used to meet with visiting American officials. They took away the prince and his younger brother, searched the property, and cut off all lines communications from the camp.

The accusation against him was treason, according to the person familiar with the arrest. Detaining family members suspected of disloyalty has become a trademark of Crown Prince Mohammed. His detention of hundreds of powerful businessmen and royal family members in 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh was portrayed as a crackdown on corruption. Critics called it a consolidation of power and a shakedown.

Associates of many of those detained said they were subjected to torture and physical abuse, then coerced into turning over billions of dollars in private wealth in exchange for their release. The Saudis familiar with the arrests said  that it was unclear where the new detainees were being held, if they might face criminal charges, or if they might soon be released.

News source- Saudis arrest 2 princes for allegedly plotting coup

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