(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef died on Saturday, months after becoming heir to the throne.
Most political power is concentrated among the senior members of the ruling al-Saud family. The succession is determined by the king and a family council.
Here are some of the main players:
- KING ABDULLAH - Thought to have been born in 1923, Abdullah is a grandfatherly figure in the eyes of many Saudis. When he became de facto regent after King Fahd’s stroke in 1995, and as king from 2005 onwards, Abdullah demonstrated a zeal for economic reform and pushed for some social change. While some liberals have been disappointed with the modest results, conservatives have chafed at moves to make it easier for women to be educated and work.
- PRINCE SALMAN - The governor of Riyadh since 1962 and Defence Minister since November, Salman and his family own a newspaper group including pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat and al-Eqtisadiah. Born in 1936, he underwent spine surgery in the United States in 2010 and spent months outside the kingdom for recuperation. A full brother of the late Nayef, the late King Fahd and the late crown prince Sultan, he is said to physically resemble his father King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who founded the kingdom, more than any of his brothers.
Salman is seen as the most likely successor as heir to the throne. He is a brother of King Abdullah and was made defence minister in November after more than five decades as Riyadh governor.
- PRINCE AHMED - The youngest full brother of Nayef and Salman, he has been a deputy interior minister since 1975. Educated at university in California, he was tasked with introducing reforms in the Eastern Province in the early 1980s to improve the lot of the kingdom’s Shi’ite minority who had revolted over discrimination.
Ahmed is seen as a likely candidate to take over the Interior Ministry portfolio following Nayef’s death on Saturday.
- PRINCE MUGRIN - The head of Saudi intelligence, his public profile has risen in recent years. The youngest son of Ibn Saud, he organized a conference on combating Internet militancy in 2007. Diplomats say he is close to King Abdullah. Born in 1945, he is relatively young but is hindered in succession by his non-royal mother.
- PRINCE MISHAAL - Born in 1926, he was appointed by King Abdullah as chairman of the allegiance council which rules on matters of succession but his public profile is low.
So far no grandsons of Saudi founder Abdulaziz Ibn Saud have held power. Here are some of the most prominent:
- PRINCE KHALED AL-FAISAL - Governor of Mecca province, he is seen as one of the most liberal princes who has eased the religious police’s influence in the port city of Jeddah. He is owner of al-Watan newspaper, the country’s most liberal daily. A poet, his liberal leanings could disqualify him as far as the hard-line Wahhabi clerics are concerned.
- PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL - The veteran foreign minister is respected abroad and has proved one of King Abdullah’s trustiest lieutenants. However, a painful back problem probably rules him out of any move to seek another office.
- PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL - Born around 1945 and son of King Faisal, he served as Saudi intelligence chief and as ambassador in London and Washington before retiring in 2006. He is the brother of the Mecca governor and the foreign minister.
- PRINCE MITEB BIN ABDULLAH - The son of King Abdullah. In November 2010, his father handed him full control of the National Guard, an elite Bedouin corps that handles domestic security.
- PRINCE ABDULAZIZ BIN ABDULLAH - Prince Abdulaziz, whose mother is Palestinian, was made a deputy foreign minister last year signaling his move into the ruling family hierarchy.
- PRINCE KHALED BIN SULTAN - Son of the late Crown Prince Sultan, he led Arab forces during the 1991 war to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. He is deputy defence minister and owner of the influential pan-Arab daily newspaper al-Hayat. He led Saudi forces in their war against Yemeni rebels who strayed into Saudi territory in 2009.
- PRINCE BANDAR BIN SULTAN - Born in 1950, this son of the late Crown Prince was ambassador to Washington between 1983 and 2005. He is Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council but is thought to have fallen out of favor with Abdullah and other princes due to overzealous diplomatic efforts in recent years.
- PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF - The son of the late Nayef, he heads Saudi Arabia’s anti-terror campaign and is a deputy minister of interior. Diplomats say he has won plaudits from Western intelligence agencies for his work combating an al Qaeda campaign to destabilize the kingdom from 2003 to 2006. He survived an assassination attempt in 2009 by a suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant.
- PRINCE SULTAN BIN SALMAN - The first Arab in space has become the kingdom’s tourism minister and was tipped by the U.S. embassy to rise to higher office. Sultan was an astronaut in the 1985 Discovery mission. One of his brothers, Prince Abdulaziz, is a well-regarded deputy oil minister and another brother, Prince Faisal, runs the family’s media business.
- PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL - An entrepreneur and one of the world’s richest men, he is the largest individual investor in Citigroup Inc.. His father’s history as a renegade reformer prince who allied with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser in the 1960s could hinder his chances of promotion. Islamists also see his pan-Arab entertainment television network Rotana as immoral.