Saudi King Abdullah dead – state TV






Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (Reuters/Brendan Smialowski)

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (Reuters/Brendan Smialowski)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has died in hospital while undergoing treatment for pneumonia. An official statement has named Saudi Crown Prince Salman the new king.

"His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning," said the statement on Saudi Arabian state TV channel attributed to Salman.

Salman has immediately appointed his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.

Prior to the confirmation, conflicting reports suggested that the Saudis had initially dismissed the news of the king's death on social media. However, Saudi television cut to Koranic verses early on Friday – a practice known to signify the death of a senior royal, Reuters reported.

King Abdullah had been in hospital for several weeks as he had been suffering from pneumonia and temporarily needed to breathe through a tube on account of his illness.

Abdullah was officially appointed king in 2006, but prior to that he had run the country for at least 10 years as de facto regent, after his predecessor, King Fahd, suffered a debilitating stroke.

The royal’s age is not officially known, However, it is believed that he was born in 1923, according to Reuters.
The new head of state of the number one oil exporter in the world is thought to be 79 years old. King Salman was appointed Crown Prince in 2012 and in the same year started serving as a defense minister. Before assuming these responsibilities, he had been governor of Riyadh province for five decades.
Abdullah was a staunch US ally, who supported Western fight against Al-Qaeda and tried to always keep rival Shiite Iran in check. Under his rule, Saudi Arabia strongly backed Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The King was the first international head of state to congratulate the interim government of Egypt after the July 2013 military coup deposed Mohamed Morsi.

King Abdullah implemented some modest women reforms in the area of female rights and economic deregulation, but largely stayed away from any changes to the kingdom's political system.

King Salman is said to be part of the royal circle that will continue to pursue similar policies.
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