10 Saudi princes among dozens arrested in massive crackdown

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Saudi Arabia’s newly formed anti-corruption commission has arrested 10 princes and dozens of former government ministers on Saturday.

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Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported that the arrests came soon after the commission, headed by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured above), was established by royal decree.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Prince Mohammed is moving to consolidate his growing power while spearheading a reform programme.

It is not clear what those detained are suspected of. However, Saudi broadcaster Al-Arabiya said fresh investigations had been launched into the 2009 Jeddah floods and the outbreak of the Mers virus which emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

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Separately, the heads of the Saudi National Guard and the navy were replaced in a series of high-profile sackings.

SPA said King Salman had dismissed National Guard minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and navy commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

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There was no official confirmation of the arrests. The 32-year-old crown prince, often known as MBS, is set to be the first millennial to occupy the throne in a country where half the population is under 25, though the timing of his ascension remains unknown.

Already viewed as the de facto ruler controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy, Prince Mohammed is widely seen to be stamping out traces of internal dissent before a formal transfer of power from his 81-year-old father King Salman.

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In September the authorities arrested about two dozen people, including influential clerics, in what activists denounced as a coordinated crackdown.

Analysts said many of those detained were resistant to Prince Mohammed’s aggressive foreign policy that includes the boycott of Gulf neighbour Qatar as well as some of his bold policy reforms, including privatising state assets and cutting subsidies.

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