The man who has led Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on al Qaeda and survived an al Qaeda assassination attempt by a suicide bomber carrying a bomb in his rectum has been named Saudi Arabia’s top security official.
Prince Muhammed bin Nayef, chosen by King Abdullah as the country’s new interior minister, has been “widely credited as the driving force” behind Saudi Arabia’s post-2003 crackdown on al Qaeda, according to a 2009 U.S. State Department cable leaked by WikiLeaks.
The Prince, who is the son of a legendary security official known as “the Prince of Shadows,” has survived multiple assassination attempts, the most serious of which was an August 2009 suicide bombing by a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni al Qaeda affiliate. The bomber, who blew himself up close to Prince Muhammed, had hidden the bomb in his own rectum.
The bomb was allegedly designed by AQAP bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri, the same Saudi expatriate who designed the underwear bomb used by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas 2009. Prince Muhammad escaped the August 2009 attack with minor injuries. His would-be assassin, who died in the blast, was al-Asiri’s brother Abdullah.
Prince Muhammed, who had been deputy interior minister, replaces his uncle, who only held the position for five months and asked to be relieved of his duties per the Royal decree announcing today’s appointment. Prince Muhammed previously served as assistant interior minister for 13 years under his father, the late Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, who was interior minister for 37 years and was known as “Prince of Shadows” for his night-owl habits and his success working covertly against Islamist militants.
Succession in Saudi Arabia goes from brother to brother instead of from brother to son to minimize family feuds among the 37 sons of Saudi Arabia’s founding King Abdul Aziz. Prince Muhammed comes from the “Sudairi” branch of the ruling family; an alliance of the seven most powerful brothers in the family whose mother was a favorite of the late founding king.
At 53, Prince Muhammed becomes the first member of the second generation of the Saudi ruling family to be appointed to such a high-profile position.
The present king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, is 87 years old and has been king since 2005.