Three members of Saudi royal family arrested over 'coup plot' against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King

Three members of Saudi royal family arrested over 'coup plot' against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King

SAUDI Arabia has arrested three senior members of its royal family over an alleged plot to oust King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, say reports.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of the king, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, are said to have been detained and charged with treason.

An influential royal cousin, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, has also been detained by the Saudi authorities, according to the New York Times.

Guards arrived at the homes of the royals wearing masks and dressed in black, and searched their homes, say the reports.

Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, has moved to consolidate power since ousting his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne in 2017.

He ordered the arrests of dozens of Saudi royal figures, ministers and businessmen later that year.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the new detentions and said they related to an alleged coup attempt.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudi authorities following news of the arrests.

Prince Mohammed has fuelled resentment among some prominent branches of the ruling family by tightening his grip on power.

Some have questioned his ability to lead following the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents and the largest-ever attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last year, sources have said.

They said royals seeking to change the line of succession view Prince Ahmed, King Salman's only surviving full brother, as a possible choice.

It's reported he would have support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers.

Saudi insiders and Western diplomats say the family is unlikely to oppose the crown prince while the 84-year-old king remains alive.

The monarch has delegated most responsibilities of rule to his son but still presides over weekly cabinet meetings and receives foreign dignitaries.

Prince Ahmed has largely kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in October 2018 after more than two years away.

He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling Al Saud family's senior members, who opposed Mohammed bin Salman becoming crown prince in 2017, say sources.

The latest detentions come at a time of heightened tension with regional rival Iran and as Crown Prince Mohammed implements ambitious social and economic reforms,.

Prince Mohammed has been lauded at home for easing social restrictions in the Muslim kingdom and opening up the economy.

But he has come under international criticism over a devastating war in Yemen, the murder of  Khashoggi and the detention of women's rights activists.

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