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Saudi Arabia Buries Crown Prince Who Led Terrorism Fight

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. Source: AFP/Getty Images via Bloomberg

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who led Saudi Arabia’s terrorism fight while in his dual role as interior minister, was buried today in Mecca.

Nayef’s coffin was carried through the Al-Haram Mosque in Islam’s holiest city, with members of the royal family and senior government officials attending. State television showed images from the funeral. The death of the heir to King Abdullah was announced yesterday in a Royal Court statement carried by the broadcaster, which didn’t give details. The crown prince was in his late 70s.

Abdullah was met by his sons and other princes ahead of the funeral, Saudi Press Agency said. Nayef was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery, as stipulated by the Sunni Wahhabi version of Islam.

Nayef had been Saudi Arabia’s most powerful prince amid the turmoil that has rocked the region. He put down attacks by al-Qaeda and backed the religious police in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, the world’s largest oil producer. He was the second crown prince to die in less than a year, renewing questions about succession as the Saudi leadership ages. The king named him Oct. 28 to succeed Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who was born in 1935, followed Crown Prince Sultan as defense minister.

Prince Salman is the likely candidate for the crown prince position, Khalid Al-Dakhil, a professor of political science at King Saud University, said in a phone interview from Riyadh. “He has been a public figure since the 1960s,” Al-Dakhil said.

Died in Geneva

Nayef left Saudi Arabia last month for scheduled medical tests and a vacation, the Royal Court said at the time. Nayef met with a number of the kingdom’s princes and officials at his residence in Geneva, the Saudi Press Agency reported on June 12. The Swiss government said he died there, according to an e-mailed statement.

His death comes as Saudi Arabia confronts unemployment, an issue cited by some activists during the unrest that led to the toppling of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya during the so-called Arab Spring that began in December 2010. Joblessness reached 27 percent for Saudis between 20 and 30 years old in 2009, according to official data.

King Abdullah unveiled a $130 billion spending plan in the first quarter of 2011, including allowances for government workers and salary increases for military personnel.

Six kings have ruled Saudi Arabia since it was established in 1932. Abdullah changed the kingdom’s succession rules in 2007 to give an appointed commission of princes, the Allegiance Council, more power to select a new ruler.

To contact the reporter on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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