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Who is Prince Mohammed bin Salman and why is he at the centre of Saudi purge?

A Reuters report described the developments as Saudi Arabia's future king tightening his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Mohammed bin Salman
File photo of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Reuters

Described as being "Mr Everything", a "hothead", and "young and brash", Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old crown prince is back in the news as the supposed driving force behind a wide-sweeping purge in the desert kingdom that started on Sunday. Tthe Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said late Saturday that 11 Saudi princes and dozens of the kingdom's former ministers had been detained in a new anti-corruption probe headed by the crown prince, who was also named to oversee the newly created anti-corruption committee. ALSO READ: Saudi purge: Senior royal ousted; 11 princes detained in corruption probe Further, Saudi Arabia's King Salman ousted one of the country's highest-level royals from power, removing Prince as head of the National Guard. He was replaced by Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, who had held a senior post with the guard. The monarch also replaced Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih with his deputy, Mohammad al-Tuwaijri. ALSO READ: Saudi prince Mansour bin Moqren killed in helicopter crash amid purge A Reuters report described the developments as Saudi Arabia's future king tightening his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers, and investors, including billionaire who is one of the kingdom's most prominent businessmen. Here is all you need to know about the crown prince who has amassed enormous power in less than three years 1) Born on August 31, 1985, the prince is the eldest son of then-Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud's third wife, Fahdah bint Falah bin Sultan. In its profile of the crown prince, the BBC reports that he earned a bachelor's degree in law from the King Saud University in the capital Riyadh. Subsequently, he worked for several state bodies. Further, the profile says that in 2009, he was appointed as the special adviser to his father, who was then serving as the governor of Riyadh. 2) Then the kingdom's deputy crown prince, in June this year, was named to replace his cousin as heir to the throne in a shake-up that consolidated the leader's power in the kingdom. The king's decision to elevate his son, who already controlled the defence, oil and economy portfolios, was supported by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family. In a royal decree, King Salman also relieved Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef from his post as Interior Minister. 3) In its profile of the young leader, Pakistani daily Dawn described him as the main proponent of a wide-ranging plan, called Vision 2030, to bring social and economic change to the kingdom. The 32-year-old crown prince has been seeking to attract greater investments and improve the country's reputation as a place to do business.

It's part of a larger effort to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil revenue. As reported by The Guardian, Prince Mohammed is the first Saudi royal to oversee directly as he chairs the supreme board of the state oil company. An initial public offering putting five per cent of the company up for sale is planned for next year. Last month, he announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast with more than $500 billion in investments that will offer a lifestyle not available in today's Saudi Arabia. 4) Last month, at an event in Riyadh meant to highlight the kingdom’s influence in the business world, Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia was returning to "moderate" Islam and intended to "eradicate" extremism. This in a country that was founded on an austere form of Islam and has been defined by it for decades. The remarks seemed aimed at religious ultra-conservatives who have been tolerated by the ruling Al Saud family in exchange for their support. "We are only returning to what we used to be, to moderate Islam, open to the world and all religions," the 32-year-old prince said at the conference in the capital. "We won't waste 30 years of our lives dealing with any extremist ideas. We will eradicate extremism." 5) In the course of his meteoric rise to power since 2015, the prince has announced plans to sell a stake in oil giant Saudi and create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and has ended some social constraints, including a long-standing ban on female drivers. Women will be allowed to drive in June 2018. ALSO READ: Prince Alwaleed's arrest: How future Saudi king is tightening grip on power 6) Prince Mohammed, who is the kingdom's defence minister, has also led Saudi Arabia into a two-year-old war in Yemen, where the government says it is fighting Iran-aligned militants, and a row with neighbouring Qatar, which it accuses of backing terrorists, a charge Doha denies. Detractors of the crown prince say both moves are dangerous adventurism.

First Published: Tue, November 07 2017. 08:55 IST