Saudi security officials on Friday arrested members of the country’s ruling royal family in what appeared to be the latest crackdown to benefit Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman.
Royal guards wearing masks and dressed in black arrested princes Muhammed bin Nayef and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, two men once seen as contenders for King Salman’s throne, from their homes early in the morning, according to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news. The two men stand accused of treason and risk execution or lifetime imprisonment, the outlet reported.
Authorities also detained Muhammed bin Nayef’s brother, Nawaf bin Nayef, per The New York Times.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to HuffPost requests for comment. The U.S. State Department declined to comment.
The young crown prince has steadily accumulated power in his thousands-strong clan since gaining his position in 2017, shattering the old tradition of dividing power and seeking consensus among different branches of the family. He has also flexed his muscles by targeting other influential figures, arresting scores of high-ranking Saudis and activists and kidnapping Lebanon’s prime minister.
The prince, known as MBS, has maintained his position as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler through those controversies, his association with the kingdom’s brutal campaign in neighboring Yemen and the CIA’s conclusion that he ordered the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S.
MBS’ relationships abroad ― notably with President Donald Trump, who has been consistently supportive and even said a proven tie to Khashoggi’s killing wouldn’t change his views― have helped shield him from serious challenges and international criticism.
But his aggressive policies have worried some top Saudis and experts familiar with the kingdom, spurring discussions on whether it might not be best for another successor to follow the aging king. Two of Friday’s detainees were seen as prime alternatives: the monarch’s younger brother, Prince Ahmed, and his nephew, Prince Muhammed, who was well-liked in Western capitals.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.