Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has died in Geneva, Saudi state television said on Saturday, citing a royal court statement.
Prince Nayef, interior minister since 1975, was the heir to Saudi King Abdullah and was appointed crown prince in October 2011 after the death of his elder brother, Crown Prince Sultan.
Prince Nayef had been in Switzerland since May for medical tests.
Al Arabiya reported that the prince will be buried on Sunday and that prayers would be held in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
Unlike in European monarchies, the line of succession in Saudi Arabia does not move directly from father to eldest son. It moves down a line of brothers born to the kingdom’s founder Ibn Saud, who died in 1953.
Long serving interior minister
The crown prince was interior minister for more than three decades, Prince Nayef enjoyed strong relations across the Arab region.
Born in the western city of Taif in 1933, Nayef was quickly pushed into public service, being named governor of Riyadh when he was barely 20.
His elder brother Fahd brought him into the interior ministry, where he was named deputy minister in 1970 and minister five years later, when Fahd became crown prince.
Nayef was credited for the successful crackdown on al-Qaeda militants in subsequent years, halting their wave of bloody attacks on the kingdom between 2003 and 2006.
His internal security campaign forced al-Qaeda leaders and many members to flee to southern neighbor Yemen, where they formed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Charged with managing the country’s borders, its internal crime-fighting apparatus and the internal intelligence force the mabahith, Nayef dismantled charities which used to collect donations for the late Osama bin Laden and his extremist network.
Prince Faisal Bin Khalid Bin Abdulaziz, Aseer Region Governor praised Prince Nayef as having led an anti-terrorism program with “wisdom and efficiency, which won him international admiration.
Prince Khaled pointed to Nayef’s role in the establishment of a successful rehabilitation program for former detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Turki Al-Sudairi, editor-in-Chief of Al-Riyadh newspaper, described Prince Nayef’s death as a “great loss” for the Kingdom and the world because he was “one of the best people who established one of the strongest security services in both the region and the world.”
Al-Jazeera newspaper editor-in-chief Khaled al-Malik said Prince Nayef helped develop Saudi Arabia’s security and anti-terrorism program without transforming the country into a “police state” in that “ensured the balance between the people’s rights and obligations."
Saudis showed support and appreciation for the strongman persona Nayef reflected because of public perceptions that he could deliver on national security.
Nayef was the middle prince of the so-called Sudairi Seven, the formidable bloc of sons of King Abdul Aziz by a favorite wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.
Among his other full brothers were King Fahd, who died in 2005, Crown Prince Sultan who died in 2011, and Riyadh Governor Prince Salman.