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Saudi Prince detains 3 senior royals

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered three members of the royal family be arrested over an alleged coup attempt. They were taken into custody Friday. File Photo by Fares Ghaith/EPA-EFE
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered three members of the royal family be arrested over an alleged coup attempt. They were taken into custody Friday. File Photo by Fares Ghaith/EPA-EFE

March 7 (UPI) -- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has the ordered arrest of three members of the royal family.

Two of the kingdom's most prominent figures were among the three detainees arrested Friday for an alleged coup attempt, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

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The arrests included the king's younger and only surviving full brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 78, former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and royal cousin, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef.

The detentions have been seen as an attempt to quash potential rivals as his plans to diversify the economy have come up short and the price of oil, the kingdom's main revenue source, has slipped amid coronavirus concern.

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Bin Salman, 34, has acted as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia on behalf of his aging father King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 84, since his father appointed him as crown prince in 2017.

Early on, the crown prince received global praise as he promised economic and social reforms, which led to lifting some restrictions on women's rights, such as the right to drive, but he has also been subject to controversy, including harsh treatment of women's rights activists.

Back in 2017, bin Salman also ordered the arrests of hundreds of other prominent figures, including royal figures and business people who were locked up in an anti-corruption purge at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The five-star open hotel re-opened last year after authorities reached agreements with most of the detainees to recover $107 billion in assets over a three-month investigation, according to Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb. Authorities refused to settle with 56 of the suspects who have been moved to prison, the prosecutor general's office said.

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The following year he presided over the killing of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Critics also say his refusal to back down from military intervention in Yemen has led to humanitarian disaster.

Bin Salman's critics also praised Prince Ahmed for appearing to criticize the Saudi-led war in Yemen during an encounter with protesters in London in 2018, but he has since said that his comments were misinterpreted.

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The former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, was first in line to the throne, until he was replaced as crown prince three years ago by the king's son and also ousted as interior minister. In the minister role, he was credited with defeating al-Qaeda insurgency's grip on Saudi Arabia in the 2000s and developing close ties with U.S. intelligence agencies.

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