Saudi Arabia has denied reports that former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has been confined to his palace in Jeddah and banned from leaving the country.
The New York Times (NYT) cited former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family as confirming Mohammed bin Nayef’s confinement since he was replaced by his 31-year-old cousin Mohammed bin Salman by royal decree on June 21.
However, Bloomberg quoted a senior Saudi Arabian official as denying the report.
Since stepping down, the prince has left home on a daily basis and faced no restrictions, the anonymous official said.
The NYT report claimed the restrictions began almost immediately after the announcement when the 57-year-old returned to the palace to find his guards replaced by those loyal to Mohammed Bin Salman.
Movement restrictions are also said to have been placed on the former crown prince’s close family members including his daughters.
The sources said the move was to prevent any potential opposition to the power transition that saw the elder prince, a well-respected counter-terrorism chief, also replaced as interior minister.
“It’s an indication that Mohammed bin Salman does not want any opposition,” a senior US official was quoted as saying.
“He doesn’t want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that Mohammed bin Nayef was plotting anything anyway.”
The official said the US government was in contact with the Saudi interior ministry but had not heard from him directly.
“Mohammed bin Nayef has been such a great friend and partner of the US, we would not want to see him treated inelegantly or indecorously,” the American official said.
A senior official at the Saudi Foreign Ministry contacted by the NYT described the claims of the former crown prince’s treatment as “baseless and false”.
Several American counterterrorism officials with strong relationships with the former crown prince were said to have privately expressed outrage over his treatment after he helped put an end to a 2003-2006 Al Qaeda bombing campaign in the kingdom and proved a key ally in counterterrorism efforts.
However, the appointment appeared to go down well with US President Donald Trump, who congratulated Mohammed bin Salman after the announcement having previously dined with him in the White House in March in the buildup to a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia two months later.
Saudi business leaders have also cheered the appointment, seeing Mohammed bin Salman as a reformer who will open new opportunities having led the development of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy away from oil.