Prince Nayef, whose arrest was the latest to be reported, has held positions in both the interior ministry and the military. A Saudi military website still lists him in his former role as the head of army intelligence, but he does not appear to have any position in the government at the time of his detention.
His father, Prince Ahmed, had appeared for a short time in fall to be a potential rival to the crown prince. But Prince Ahmed swiftly disavowed such ideas. He was greeted warmly by Crown Prince Mohammed on a return that year to the Riyadh airport.
After that, Prince Ahmed continued to come and go as he pleased even while Crown Prince Mohammed placed other relatives believed to be critical of him under travels bans or house arrest.
The new wave of detentions this week came just days after Prince Ahmed had returned from a falcon hunting trip abroad. His son, Prince Nayef, was with him at the time, a person close to the family said Saturday.
Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a former crown prince and former interior minister who had close ties to American intelligence agencies, was also detained on Friday. He had effectively been under house arrest since being forced out of his previous posts by the current crown prince in .
His younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, was also taken by security officers.
“It looks like MBS is just taking out all rivals,” said Michael Stephens, a scholar at the Royal United Services Institute, using the initials for the crown prince.
But justifying his actions to the world, Mr. Stephens added, may be difficult. “The problem is that after the Khashoggi murder, trust in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is very low,” he said. “No one will believe the official narrative.”
David D. Kirkpatrick reported from London, Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon, and Eric Schmitt from Washington, DC
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