Unseen since April, Mohammad bin Salman’s fate remains a mystery

Unconfirmed reports claim he was wounded or even killed in an attempted coup on 21 April. The only certainty is that he has been absent from official events, including the meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. An exiled Saudi prince calls for an uprising against Saudi Arabia’s current rulers. Saudi lobby is behind Trump’s cancellation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Speculation abounds in Western and social media over the fate of Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince who has not been seen in public since 21 April.

According to some sources, the kingdom’s powerful number two might have been wounded in an attempted coup. Some even suggest he might be dead.

MBS, as he is often referred to, is behind the kingdom’s economic and social reform programme Vision2030, and was the first to back the Yemen war and the anti-corruption campaign (against possible rivals).

Given the flurry of rumours, Saudi media have rejected reports about gunfire at the royal palace or military coups. The official version is that the gunshots heard at the palace were semi-automatic fire used to send away a drone that appeared near the palace wall.

The Saudi royal family last week released an undated photo of bin Salman at a cabinet meeting. However, speculation continues, especially since the media-savvy crown prince has played on his public visibility to boost his power.

For this reason, his absence during the official visit of the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Saudi Arabia at the end of April was that more remarkable.

His last known appearance was on 12 April during a meeting with the royal family of Spain.

According to the al-Ahd al-Jadeed Twitter account, which describes itself as “close to the decision-making circles” in Saudi Arabia, MBS has not entered the royal court since the incident at the royal palace in April.

Unconfirmed reports claim that King Salman was evacuated during the attack to a bunker at a nearby military base (under US command).

Last week, Iran’s Kayhan newspaper reported, citing a secret intelligence information from an unnamed Arab country, that the crown prince was shot twice during the attack and may have already died.

Official sources in Riyadh are instead saying that the crown prince now plans to appear shortly before the media.

Meanwhile, more and more people outside the country are calling for regime change. The latest is exiled Saudi Prince Khalid bin Farhan who called on two of his relatives in particular — Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz – to launch a coup against King Salman and his son.

According to Prince Khalid, who was granted political asylum by Germany in 2013, “99 per cent of the members of the royal family, the security services and the army would stand behind them,” were they to challenge the country’s current rulers.

Parenthetically, more and more reports suggest that the Saudis backed US President Donald Trump's decision to cancel the Iranian nuclear agreement and impose new sanctions against Tehran.

Therefore, not only Israel, but Saudi Arabia too put influence on Washington to sink a deal backed by the international community.

One of the most active players in the anti-Iranian "propaganda" in the United States is the MSLGroup, which has spent millions of dollars on promoting press material and documents against the agreement.