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Saudi prince killed in helicopter crash near Yemen border

Prince Mansour bin Moqren died when aircraft went down, with several other officials on board; cause of crash as yet unknown

An apache helicopter flying during the Northern Thunder military exercises in Hafr al-Batin, 500 kilometers northeast of the Saudi Capital Riyadh on March 10, 2016. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
An apache helicopter flying during the Northern Thunder military exercises in Hafr al-Batin, 500 kilometers northeast of the Saudi Capital Riyadh on March 10, 2016. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A Saudi prince was killed on Sunday when a helicopter crashed near the kingdom’s southern border with war-torn Yemen, state television said.

The news channel Al-Ekhbariya announced the death of Prince Mansour bin Moqren, the deputy governor of Asir province.

It said the helicopter had several officials on board, and did not reveal the cause of the crash.

The crash comes after Saudi Arabia on Saturday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile near Riyadh’s international airport after it was fired from Yemen, in an escalation of the kingdom’s war against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

It also comes as the Kingdom appears to be in the midst of a major purge of rivals to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The missile attack was the first aimed by the Shiite rebels at the heart of the Saudi capital, underscoring the growing threat posed by the raging conflict in Yemen.

The attack highlighted how the war in Yemen is increasingly spilling across the border since a Saudi-led coalition began its military intervention there in 2015.

Saudi Arabia led the intervention to prop up the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the Huthis forced him into exile.

Hoping for a quick victory against what it saw as Iranian expansionism in its back yard, Riyadh has so far been unable to remove the Huthis from Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia, May 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, pool, File)

Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne Mohammed was overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country’s most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers. Some of them are potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom Sunday as he further consolidated power.

Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men with extensive holdings in Western companies, as well as two of the late King Abdullah’s sons.

Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaking during a press conference in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, on May 11, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / Amer HILABI)

The arrest of senior princes upends a longstanding tradition among the ruling Al Saud family to keep their disagreements private in an effort to show strength and unity in the face of Saudi Arabia’s many tribes and factions. It also sends a message that the crown prince has the full backing of his father, King Salman, to carry out sweeping anti-corruption reforms targeting senior royals and their business associates, who have long been seen as operating above the law.

The attorney general said Sunday the newly-formed anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is conducting investigations to ensure transparency and good governance.

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