Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has died, state television announced early Friday. He was 93. His successor, half-brother Deputy Prime Minister Salman bin Abdul Aziz, accedes to the throne immediately after the royal funeral later today..
"His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning," state television said in a statement attributed to Salman.
Abdullah, who took power in 2005 after the death of his brother King Fahd, was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 31. All channels of Saudi TV early Friday local time began broadcasting recitations of the Quran.
King Abdullah died of pneumonia.
DEBKAfile: Abdullah will go down in Saudi history as the hidebound kingdom’s great reformer and strong ruler. His death occurs at a time that its security is beset as never before with dangers from Islamist terrorists from the northeast in Iraq, Iran’s pretensions to Mid East hegemonyas its first nuclear power, from the east, and Yemen's fall into Tehran’s ambit, to the south.
His successors must grapple with plunging oil prices, partly in consequence of Saudi polices, which have brought the oil kingdomits first ever budget deficit.
The late monarch was a leading opponent of Barack Obama’s Mid East policies and he invested time and money in building a political-military-intelligence bond to defeat it with Egypt, in quiet partnership with Israel.
His successor, Prince Salman, is 78. Next in line to the throne is Prince Muqrin, aged 69-70, who takes over as Crown Prince. Muqrin will be the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia in view of Salman’s health condition – he is reputed to be suffering from dementia.
Aware of this, Abdullah went to great lengths in the last days of his life to order the succession to the throne so as to assure the kingdom of stability after his passing.