State TV says Crown Prince Salman has succeeded King Abdullah, who died at the age of 90.Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz speaks at the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Mecca in this August 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Hassan Ali/Files
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has died, a statement from the royal palace has said.
The royal court said in a statement on Friday that Abdullah, believed to be around 90, died at 1:00am local time (2200 GMT), expressing its “great sadness and mourning”.
The officials did not disclose the cause of Abdullah’s death, but he was admitted to hospital in December suffering from pneumonia and had been breathing with the aid of a tube.
Abdullah will be buried later on Friday following afternoon prayers, and citizens would be invited to pledge allegiance to the new monarch and the crown prince at the royal palace, the court statement said.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said: “This is someone who is definitely going to be remmebered as a reformist within the royal family.
“He succeeded his brother at a very delicate time and started reforms in the country.”
Saudi TV also announced Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 79, is now officially the new Saudi king and Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz is the new crown prince.
“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…,” State TV said.
Obama condoles death
US President Barack Obama condoled King Abdullah’s death. “As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship,” Obama said in a written statement.
“The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy.”
Abdullah, thought to have been born in 1923, took the throne in 2005, but had run the country as de facto regent for a decade before that after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke.
At stake with the appointment of Salman as king is the future direction of the United States’ most important Arab ally and self-appointed champion of Sunni Islam at a moment of unprecedented turmoil across the Middle East.
Most recently the kingdom joined the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Abdullah played a guiding role in Saudi Arabia’s support for Egypt’s government after the military intervened in 2013, and drove his country’s support for Syria’s rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
King Salman has been crown prince since 2012 and has been heading the defence ministry since 2011. He was governor of Riyadh province for five decades before that.