Saudi prince ‘stripped of powers’


World, Asia

American officials referred to it as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, the Times said.

Mohammed bin Salman

Jeddah: Speculations are rife that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has lost his financial and economic authority as his father wanted to rein in after the international outrage over his alleged actions.

He has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings over the last fortnight. The move to restrict his responsibilities temporarily is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.

The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend, the Guardian reports.

While the move has not been declared publicly, one of the king’s trusted advisers, Harvard-educated Musaed al-Aiban, recently named as national security adviser, will informally oversee investment decisions on the king’s behalf.

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly ordered by Prince Mohammed, had provoked international condemnation, though the Saudis denied any role.

Meanwhile, more  than a year before the killing of Khashoggi, Prince Mohammed approved a secret campaign to silence dissenters, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

The campaign included surveillance, kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudis, said the report which cited US officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the effort.

American officials referred to it as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group, the Times said.

At least some of the clandestine missions were carried out by members of the team that killed and dismembered Khashoggi in October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, suggesting his murder was part of a wider campaign against dissidents, the report said, citing the US officials and associates of some Saudi victims.

Among its activities, the Rapid Intervention Group appears to have been involved in the detention and abuse of prominent women's rights activists arrested last year, the Times said.