Saudi king replaces military chiefs in major shake-up

Saudi Arabia King Salman has replaced top military commanders in a series of late-night royal decrees 

Saudi Arabia King Salman
Saudi Arabia King Salman

Saudi Arabia King Salman has sacked top military commanders, including the chief of staff, in a series of late-night royal decrees.

The monarch also replaced the heads of the ground forces and air defences, as well as senior officials at the interior ministry.

The news was published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), but no reason for the sackings was given.

They come as the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting rebels, is nearing the end of its third year.

“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.

Al-Bunyan’s sacking came after he inaugurated a major exhibition this week by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned defence company, which illustrates ongoing efforts to reform the sector.

“These Saudi royal decrees appear to be part of the kingdom’s national defence strategy,” Theodore Karasik, a senior advisor at the consultancy Gulf States Analytics, told AFP.

“A military transformation is under way in Saudi Arabia. The changes come on the heels of the SAMI exhibition, which is a critical part of the Prince Mohammed’s reform plan to create an indigenous defence program.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the defence minister, is believed to be behind various recent shake-ups in the country.

Last year dozens of prominent Saudi figures, including princes, ministers and billionaires, were locked up in Riyadh's five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel as the prince led a drive against corruption and abuse of power.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the conflict and another nearly 2,200 Yemenis have died of cholera amid deteriorating sanitation conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.

Separately, a series of civil appointments were announced in other decrees late Monday.

More in World