The Saudi authorities have arrested three members of the royal family, including two high-ranking princes, reported to the US media on Friday, signaling that the powerful crown prince is further tightening his power.
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch's nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, were brought out of their homes by royal guards early Friday after being accused of treason, the Wall Street Journal reported citing undisclosed sources.
The New York Times also reported on the detentions, adding that Prince Nayef's younger brother Prince Nawaf bin Nayef was also detained.
The Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
The arrests mark the latest move by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has consolidated his power by detaining prominent clergymen and activists, as well as princes and business elites.
Prince Mohammed, the king's son, was internationally convicted at the Kingdom's Istanbul consulate in October 2018 for the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi.
Prince Ahmed, who was said to be in his mid-70s, had returned to the kingdom from his base in London after the Khashoggi scandal, which some saw as an attempt to strengthen support for the monarchy.
In June 2017, Prince Mohammed ousted Prince Nayef, the former crown prince and interior minister, to become the heir to the most powerful throne in the Arab world.
At that time, Saudi TV channels showed Prince Mohammed kissing the older prince's hand and kneeling in awe of him in a show.
Western media reports later said the deposed prince had been placed under house arrest, an allegation that was heavily contested by the Saudi authorities.
"Prince Mohammed is encouraged – he has already ousted any threat to his rise and has imprisoned or murdered critics of his regime without effect," said Becca Wasser, a political analyst with the US-based RAND Corporation, about the recent move.
"This is another step to strengthen his power and send a message to everyone – including the kings – not to cross him."
The arrests take place at a delicate time as Saudi Arabia bans Muslim pilgrims from the holiest sites in Islam to curb the novel corona virus.
The Kingdom has suspended the "Umrah" pilgrimage all year round due to fear of spreading the disease to Mecca and Medina, increasing uncertainty about the upcoming Hajj – an important pillar of Islam.
The oil-rich kingdom is also struggling with the falling crude oil price, the main source of income.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)