Summary:Funeral services were held Sunday for Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, a hard-line conservative credited with pushing back al Qaeda.
Nayef, named crown prince in October by his brother the
king, was heir to the Saudi throne. Saudi state TV, which reported his death
Saturday, broadcast Quran readings as an expression of mourning for the prince,
who died in Geneva, Switzerland. He was in his late 70s.
"It is a shock. We all knew his health was frail, but
his death is a shock," Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nogali said.
"We still don't know the reason behind his death."
The Saudi Press Agency published a statement from the Royal
Court, saying it "condoles the Saudi people on the deceased prince pray to
God to bless his soul and to reward him for his services to his religion and
Nayef's body arrived at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on Sunday.
He was to be buried following the funeral in Al-Adel cemetery in Mecca,
according to Oussama Nogali, Saudi foreign ministry spokesman.
Saudi King Abdullah was in attendance at the funeral, along
with Gen. Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
After the funeral, a period of mourning -- most likely for
three days -- will be announced, a Saudi official said. The official asked not
to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
"Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi
Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against
terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives," Obama
He praised Nayef for supporting a broad partnership between
Saudi Arabia and the United States.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden similarly offered his
condolences, and hailed the former leader as an important ally in the fight
It is expected that authorities selected by the king to
choose a successor will meet as soon as the mourning period is over, the
official said. A new crown prince could be named within the next three to four
days, the source said.
Nayef served as Saudi interior minister since 1975,
overseeing the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts.
He also served as deputy premier.
A classified U.S. Embassy cable leaked by the website
WikiLeaks described Nayef as a hard-line conservative who was lukewarm to King
Abdullah's reform initiatives.
Nayef led the crackdown against hard-line Islamists who took
control of Mecca in 1979 and also oversaw the smashing of Saudi-based al Qaeda
cells in the mid-2000s.
In recent years, his son, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, has led
the kingdom's fight against al Qaeda as the elder Nayef seemed to have taken
more of backseat.
On Saturday, the Bahrain state-run news agency
announced three days of mourning in that country and ordered flags to be
lowered to half-staff there and at its embassies abroad. Kuwait also announced
a three-day mourning period.