Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz passes away
Sun, 17 June 2012
JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, deputy premier and minister of interior, passed away yesterday. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz announced the death of his brother Prince Naif outside the Kingdom. He was 78. The crown prince was recently abroad for medical treatment.
Funeral prayers for Prince Naif will be performed at the Al Masjid al Haram Mosque in Mecca after Maghreb (sunset) prayers today, the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting a Royal Court statement. Prince Naif was appointed crown prince and deputy premier on October 27 last year, succeeding the late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz following his death on October 22, 2011.
Born in Taif in 1934, Prince Naif has been involved in Saudi Arabian political life for nearly six decades. He held a number of important posts throughout his career. He was chosen as governor of Riyadh in 1953. He was appointed deputy interior minister in 1970, before being appointed interior minister in 1975. It is in this latter role for which Prince Naif is most well-known. He was named second deputy premier in 2009.
Prince Naif has been hugely successful in combating terrorism in Saudi Arabia, and Al Qaeda in particular, forcing the organisation to practically flee the country for. The attacks that occurred in Saudi Arabia in 2003 represent perhaps the sternest test faced by Prince Naif. However his calm and collected handling of this crisis, and the subsequent successes he achieved in combating Al Qaeda, is something that everybody can clearly recall. Prince Naif’s successful tactics and methods of combating terrorism in the Kingdom are today held up as an example by the international community.
While Salman has often met foreign diplomats and other officials, he is seen as something of an unknown quantity, having maintained strong relations with both conservatives and western-oriented businessmen. King Abdullah in May hosted a summit for Gulf Arab leaders and has looked well, if tired, in recent television appearances, but in October had his third round of back surgery in 12 months. The kingdom emerged from last year’s Arab uprisings as one of the most stable Middle Eastern states.
Although most Saudi watchers say it is very likely that Salman will become the kingdom’s leader after the deaths of Abdullah and Nayef, they say it is uncertain who would then be seen as next in line. Although nearly 20 of King Abdulaziz’s sons still survive, few of them have the requisite government experience to lead the country. Meanwhile, those that have served for a long time in important positions, such as Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed or Intelligence Minister Prince Muqrin, are younger than the oldest of King Abdulaziz’s grandsons.
Mecca Governor Prince Khaled al Faisal, a son of the late King Faisal and brother to Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal, is seen as one possible contender among the next generation. Another is Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Eastern Province Governor Prince Mohammed bin Fahd. Under succession rules drawn up six years ago, a new king has to nominate his choice of crown prince for approval by a family “allegiance” council.
Although the council was involved in the appointment of Nayef as crown prince in October, it is not clear whether it voted on Abdullah’s choice or was simply informed of it. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud, next in line to rule the kingdom, died just eight months after becoming heir to 89-year-old King Abdullah, the royal court said yesterday. “With deep sorrow and grief... King Abdullah mourns his brother... Crown Prince Nayef who passed to the mercy of God yesterday outside the kingdom,” said a royal court statement carried by state media.
State TV said Nayef had died in Geneva where he had been receiving medical treatment for an unknown problem — he was thought to be 78. Nayef, interior minister since 1975, was appointed crown prince in October after the death of his elder brother and the previous heir Crown Prince Sultan. State television said the burial would be in Mecca today. In a statement, British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed his government’s condolences, Haque said he was sad to hear of Nayef’s death, adding, “He served the Kingdom for many years with great dignity and dedication and his contribution to the prosperity and security of the Kingdom will be long remembered,” said Hague.
The king of Bahrain ordered a three-day mourning period, Bahrain News Agency said. “He supervised the security affairs of the state for more than 30 years. He scored a lot of successes there. Especially in fighting Al Qaeda,” said Khalid al Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst. In May, Nayef went to Switzerland for medical tests, his second trip abroad for check ups for an undisclosed health issue since March. Crown Prince Nayef built the formidable security force which crushed an Al Qaeda revolt in Saudi Arabia.
Nayef was born in around 1933 in Taif, the mountain town where the royal court would annually retreat to each year from the stifling summer heat of the desert capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the kingdom’s second city. Nayef’s father King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, over the course of the preceding 30 years of warfare and diplomacy, had united the Bedouin tribes behind his vision of a pure Islamic state.
He conquered much of the Arabian peninsula, securing his family’s control over Islam’s holiest sites at Mecca and Medina. Growing up in the royal court of the 1930s and 1940s, Nayef is of the last generation of Saudi leaders who knew the austere kingdom. Nayef’s own son Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a well regarded deputy interior minister in the current administration, headed Saudi efforts to root Al Qaeda from the kingdom. Named governor of Riyadh aged only 20, Nayef impressed his father and went on to become interior minister in 1975.
It was this ministerial role that came to define Nayef by giving him the sole responsibility for protecting the kingdom from internal threats — most frequently from activists. As the man to whom regional governors reported, Nayef personally handled the petitions of individual Saudi citizens on a daily basis, cultivating a network of supporters across a kingdom where tribal and regional ties still matter. — Reuters
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