Saudi King Abdullah Dies, Royal Court Confirms

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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has died in hospital today. He was undergoing treatment for Pneumonia.

The Royal Palace has named Saudi Crown Prince Salman as the new King with immediate effect. .

“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, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning,”The Saudi Arabian State TV channel announced.

Initially the Saudis had dismissed death rumours circulating on Social media websites. However, state television in Saudi Arabia cut Koranic versues early on Friday to announce the Royal death. Although the former King’s age is unknown it is believed that he was born in 1923 which would make him 92 or 93 years-old. President Obama hailed the King as a courageous and candid leader upon hearing the announcement

Obama said, “As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” and went onto describe his “genuine and warm friendship” with the king.

Russia Today reports:

The new head of state of the number one oil exporter in the world is thought to be 79 years old. King Salman was appointed Crown Prince in 2012 and in the same year started serving as a defense minister. Before assuming these responsibilities, he had been governor of Riyadh province for five decades.

Abdullah was a staunch US ally, who supported Western fight against Al-Qaeda and tried to always keep rival Shiite Iran in check. Under his rule, Saudi Arabia strongly backed Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The King was the first international head of state to congratulate the interim government of Egypt after the July 2013 military coup deposed Mohamed Morsi.

King Abdullah implemented some modest women reforms in the area of female rights and economic deregulation, but largely stayed away from any changes to the kingdom’s political system.

King Salman is said to be part of the royal circle that will continue to pursue similar policies.

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