Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Saudi Arabia’s new interior minister, until now a little-known 33-year-old law graduate, replaces his veteran uncle as security chief at a time when the kingdom is confronting threats posed by Sunni Islamic State fighters and Shiite militants in the east.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef was appointed on Wednesday to replace Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was stripped of his positions and removed as second in line to the throne of the world’s biggest oil exporter. King Salman made his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, his heir and crown prince.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who was wounded in an al-Qaeda assassination attempt in 2009, put down an al-Qaeda bombing campaign and kept close ties to the US intelligence community, where he had a reputation as being safe and reliable.

A son of the late Crown Prince Nayef who had served as interior minister since 1975 until his death from a heart attack in 2012, Prince Mohammed had been closely identified with the formidable and effective security structure built by his father.

His replacement by his nephew sidelines Prince Mohammed, but keeps the security file in the hands of the Nayef branch of the Al Saud family, which is likely to reassure other royals as power is increasingly consolidated by King Salman and his son.

Mohammed bin Nayef had strong personal support from the security forces and intelligence apparatus, said Jane Kinninmont, a Middle East expert at Chatham House in London.

"The interior ministry thus stays with the descendants of Prince Nayef, but with less experience at the helm," she wrote on Twitter.

Prince Abdulaziz studied in Riyadh before entering private business, but after King Salman ascended to the throne in 2015, he was appointed adviser to the Royal Court for matters including border control, according to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television. He recently became adviser to the defence minister.

The new interior minister, who attended Dhahran Ahliyyah School and King Saud University, is part of a new batch of young leaders who have rocketed to the kingdom’s upper ranks since King Salman took over in a country where the old generally rule.


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