Saudi crown prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who breathed his last Saturday following a prolonged illness, was Sunday buried after sunset prayers in the holy city of Makkah. He was 78.
King Abdullah, together with other worshippers, offered funeral prayers for the crown prince at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, reported the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Supreme Military Council of Egypt chairman Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi were among the world leaders who arrived in Saudi Arabia for the funeral ceremonies.
India was represented by Law Minister Salman Khurshid.
A statement from King Abdullah, published in SPA, said Prince Nayef died Saturday “outside the kingdom”.
The 78-year-old crown prince was hospitalised in Geneva and had left the country for medical tests late last month, BBC reported.
Saudi Arabia is expected to declare a period of mourning following Prince Nayef’s burial.
Prince Nayef was also deputy prime minister and interior minister.
As the kingdom’s interior minister since 1975, he led the crackdown on Al Qaeda’s offshoot in the country after the Sep 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
According to BBC, British Prime Minister David Cameron praised the prince’s “dedication” and US President Barack Obama focused on his role in fighting terrorism.
In his message to King Abdullah, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his “profound sorrow and deep grief” and offered India’s “deepest condolences” over the sudden demise of the crown prince.
“Prince Nayef will always be remembered and admired for his outstanding contribution towards the development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in many different fields,” the prime minister said.
Nayef was named crown prince last year succeeding Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.
The succession in Saudi Arabia passes among the sons of former King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, who established the modern kingdom and reigned from 1932 to 1953. Till date, five brothers have become kings and about 20 are still alive.
The 88-year-old King Abdullah had a back operation last year.
Next in line is expected to be Prince Nayef’s brother, Prince Salman, 76, who was appointed defence minister in November after spending five decades as governor of Riyadh.
The new crown prince must be approved by the Allegiance Council, a 34-strong assembly of King Abdul Aziz’s sons and some of his grandchildren.
Committed to maintaining Saudi Arabia’s conservative traditions based on the Wahhabi doctrine of Islam, the crown prince was seen to be more conservative than King Abdullah.
In 2001, Prince Nayef, however, had supported a move to issue women with their own identity cards, a decision which offered women more freedom in many financial and legal transactions, BBC reported.