Multiple Saudi royal family members detained, accused of plotting coup

Multiple Saudi royal family members detained, accused of plotting coup
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Two of Saudi Arabia's top members of the royal family have been arrested in an alleged coup attempt, according to multiple reports.

The detained royal family members include King Salman's brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the king's nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, known as MBN, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The details of the reported plot are unclear but the Journal's sources said the alleged coup was to unseat King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS. Both arrested family members have been accused of treason. One of MBN's brothers was also detained.

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Prince Ahmed and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef were once thought to have some claim to the throne if King Salman, 84, were to die or abdicate, and their arrests further consolidate power for MBS.

Historically, the throne of the kingdom has been passed down from brother to brother. Sources told the Journal that some wanted to see Prince Ahmed – the king's brother – take the crown, instead of MBS.

MBN, the king's nephew, had held the title of crown prince until 2017 when King Salman replaced him with MBS. MBN has been viewed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a trusted source of information for years, helping prevent terrorist attacks on the State Department and the CIA while he was head of the kingdom's counterterrorism program. 

MBS, once praised for his progressive policies, has lost some favor with the U.S. and other Western countries as he's cracked down on political dissenters, with lawmakers in Washington condemning the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by men closely tied to the crown prince.

If the allegations of treason stick, Prince Ahmed and MBN could face lifetime imprisonment or execution.