LAHORE - Saudi Arabia has detained three senior Saudi princes including Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew, for allegedly planning a coup, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s son and de facto ruler of the country, which is the world’s top oil exporter and a key US ally, has moved to consolidate power since ousting Mohammed bin Nayef as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup.

Later that year, he arrested several royals and other prominent Saudis, holding them for months at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel, in an anti-corruption campaign that caused shock

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waves at home and abroad.

Four sources told Reuters that Prince Ahmed and Mohammed bin Nayef were detained in the latest operation.

Two sources, including a regional source, said Mohammed bin Nayef and his half-brother, Nawaf, were detained while at a private desert camp on Friday. Crown Prince Mohammed, who is also referred to as MbS, “accused them (the princes) of conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat,” the regional source said.

 

“With these arrests, MbS consolidated his full grip on power. It’s over with this purge,” the source added, indicating that no rivals remain to challenge his succession to the throne. Another source said the princes were accused of “treason”.

 

The Saudi government media office did not respond to a request made by international media for comment on the detentions, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

 

The regional source said King Salman had approved the latest detentions. “The king signed off on the arrests,” the source said, adding that the king is in a mental and physically sound state. The king met British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Both King Salman and the crown prince attended a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.