credited for pushing back al Qaeda
Saudi Crown Prince dies at age 79 in Geneva
HRH Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, a hard-line conservative who is credited with pushing back al Qaeda, died at age 79 in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday, June 16, 2012. His body was flown back to Jeddah where his funeral was held on Sunday after sunset prayers in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia.
This will be followed by a period of mourning. Saudi state TV broadcast readings from the Quran as an expression of mourning for the Prince. The Saudi press agency published a statement from the Royal Court, saying it "condoles the Saudi people on the deceased Prince to pray to God to bless his soul and to reward him for his services to his religion and homeland."
The Honorable Nayef had been named Crown Prince in October by his brother the eminent King of Saudi Arabia, and he was heir to the Saudi throne. It is expected that authorities selected by the King to choose a successor will meet as soon as the mourning period is over, an official said. A new Crown Prince could be named within the next three to four days, according to the source.
HRH Nayef served as Saudi interior minister since 1975, having overseen the Kingdom's counter-terrorism efforts. He also served as Deputy Premier.
"It is a shock. We all knew his health was frail, but his death is a shock," Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nogali told CNN.
US President Barack Obama released a statement Saturday offering his condolences.
"Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives," Obama said.
He praised Nayef for supporting a broad partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
US Vice President Joe Biden similarly offered his condolences, and hailed the former leader as an important ally in the fight against terror.
Nayef led the crackdown against hard-line Islamists who took control of Mecca in 1979, and also oversaw the smashing of Saudi-based al Qaeda cells in the mid-2000s.
In recent years, his son, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has led the Kingdom's fight against al Qaeda, as the elder Nayef seemed to have taken more of a backseat.
On Saturday, the Bahrain state-run news agency announced three days of mourning in that country and ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff there and at its embassies abroad. Kuwait also announced a three-day mourning period.
CNN's Rima Maktabi, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Jamjoom, and Kevin Flower contributed to this report.