Saudi Arabia princes detained, ministers dismissed
Saudi Arabia has dismissed a number of senior ministers and detained nearly a dozen princes in an investigation by a new anti-corruption committee, state media reported on Saturday.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among those held, according to Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed senior official.
The senior ministers who were sacked include Prince Meteb bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Fakeih, the economy minister.
Abdullah al-Sultan, commander of the Saudi navy, was replaced by Fahad al-Ghafli.
In a statement on the official Saudi news agency, SPA, King Salman alluded to the "exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money" for the creation of the anti-graft committee.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported that at least 11 princes, four current ministers and several former ministers had been detained in the anti-corruption probe.
Saudi authorities has not confirmed the names of those detained. However, 14 former and current ministers, officials and businessmen were mentioned on social media as being among those held.
One of those mentioned is Waleed Ibrahim, the chairman of Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), under which Al Arabiya operates.
According to Al Arabiya, the new committee, which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is looking into the 2009 floods that devastated parts of Jeddah, as well as the government's response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus outbreak.
King Salman issued a statement saying that the committee shall "identify offences, crimes and persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption".
The committee also has the power to issue arrest warrants, travel bans, disclose and freeze accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets, and "prevent their remittance or transfer by persons and entities, whatever they might be", according to the statement.
The shake-up comes just months after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his son Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom's crown prince.
Mohammed bin Salman has been responsible for pushing through a number of changes both at home and abroad since he became first in line to the Saudi crown.
Ian Black of the London School of Economics said the move fit a "pattern of accelerated change" since Mohammed bin Salman became heir.
"We've seen since June this year, very far-reaching changes," he said, adding: "That was when Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman, was appointed crown prince.
"Since Mohammed bin Salman became the crown prince in June, we've seen a lot of upheaval. We've seen the announcement of this very ambitious Saudi plan to transform the country the Saudi economy, Vision 2030."
The dismissal of Mitaab bin Abdullah as National Guard minister came shortly after a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on Riyadh's King Khaled International Airport.
However, Black said the two were probably not related as the sacking came bundled with changes to other ministerial portfolios.
In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has announced an end to its long-standing ban on allowing women to drive, and Mohammed bin Salman has also promised to return the country to a "moderate" form of Islam.
Since 2015 Saudi Arabia has been at war against Houthi rebels, who control much of northern Yemen on the kingdom's southern border.