Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, a half brother of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, died on Saturday, the royal court said.
A long-serving interior minister, Prince Nayef “died outside” Saudi Arabia having recently left the Gulf state for medical treatment, said a statement carried by state media, including Al Ekhbariyah Television and SPA news agency.
His funeral would be held on Sunday after sunset prayers in Makkah, after his body is repatriated, it added.
The 79-year-old’s death, only eight months after he replaced his late brother crown prince Sultan, raises the issue of succession due to the advanced age of the first line of apparent heirs, as turmoil shakes the Arab world.
King Abdullah is 88 and ailing, and nobody is officially in line to replace Nayef.
However, his brother Prince Salman, 76, who took over the portfolio of defence minister after Sultan’s death, appears to be a strong candidate.
Prince Nayef had been abroad on several occasions this year for medical reasons, including to Algeria, the United States, and Switzerland, where he was shown on television in Geneva three days ago greeting supporters.
The nature of his illness has not been made public.
Less than two weeks ago, his brother Prince Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying in a Saudi daily that the crown prince was in “good health” and that he would “soon” return to the kingdom.
On May 26, SPA news agency said Prince Nayef had left the country for medical tests abroad for the second time in less than three months, without naming the destination.
In March, the royal palace said he went to Algeria on holiday after the results of medical tests he underwent in the US city of Cleveland were reported as “reassuring.”
He returned to Saudi Arabia from Algeria on April 10.