Saudi King Fahd dies in Riyadh hospital

Saudi Arabia’s ruler, King Fahd, died early on Monday in a Riyadh hospital and his brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been announced the country’s new monarch, the Saudi royal court announced in a statement.

“With all sorrow and sadness, the royal court in the name of his highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and all members of the family announces the death of the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz,” according to a statement read out on state-run Saudi TV by the country’s information minister.

Saudi TV, which said the king was 84 years of age, broke with regular broadcasting to announce Fahd’s death. Qu’ranic verse recitals followed the announcement by the minister, Iyad bin Amin Madani, whose voice wavered with emotion as he read the statement.

“He died after suffering an illness,” Madani said in the statement. “God allows the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd, with great mercy and forgiveness to reside in his wide heaven.”

Fahd died early on Monday at the King Faisal Specialist hospital in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where he was admitted on May 27 for unspecified medical tests, an official at the hospital told the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity as news of the monarch’s death had not been officially announced at the time.

Funeral prayers will be held on Tuesday at Riyadh’s Turk bin Abdullah mosque for the late king, who had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 that confined him mainly to a figurehead role in the kingdom.

His half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader since then and has led the country’s battle against Islamic extremism and terrorism.

The Saudi statement said members of the oil-rich country’s royal family had “pledged allegiance” to Abdullah to take over as king and an official ceremony was expected to be held on Wednesday to confirm his succession.

At the time of Fahd’s widely publicised hospitalisation that caused concern home and abroad, officials said he was suffering from pneumonia and a high fever.

In recent weeks, Saudi officials have been saying Fahd’s health had been improving and was even preparing to leave hospital.

The late king had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 that confined him mainly to a figurehead role in the kingdom.
His half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader since then and has led the country’s battle against Islamic extremism and terrorism.

The king brought the kingdom, holder of the world’s largest oil reserves and home to Islam’s holiest shrines of Mecca and Medina, closer to the United States during more than two decades as monarch. - Sapa-AP

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