Saudi King Salman has sacked the military chief of staff and a host of other commanders in a major shake-up, state media said Monday citing a series of royal decrees. “Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, adding that Fayyad al-Ruwaili had been appointed as his replacement.
The monarch also replaced the heads of the ground forces and air defences. No official reason was given for the changes, but they come as the kingdom’s bloody conflict with Yemen’s Houthi rebels nears the end of its third year.
Several new deputies in economic and security-related ministries as well as a handful of new city mayors were appointed, including Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah as deputy labour minister, a rare senior post for a woman in the deeply conservative kingdom.
The decrees also included the appointment of three deputy governors from among the descendants of Princes Ahmed, Talal and Muqrin – brothers of King Salman, some of whom may have felt sidelined by recent changes since his accession to the throne in 2015.
One of them, new deputy governor of Asir province, Prince Turki bin Talal, is the brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was detained in the government’s anti-corruption campaign and only released last month.
The new appointments came as the Saudi-led military campaign across the kingdom’s southern border continues with the UN describing the situation Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne and the son of the monarch, is the country’s defence minister and has been consolidating his grip on power in recent months.
He is popular with many Saudi youths, who make up the vast majority of the population, but has irked some with his unconventional approach, including a palace coup last summer in which he pushed out his cousin to become heir to the throne.
Saudi analyst Ahmed al-Towayan, speaking on Saudi state television, said the new appointments were “pumping young blood” into local government while elevating young commanders into top military posts.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)