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Some of the Saudi princes, politicians and wealthy businessmen detained in November in an anti-corruption purge have been released.

Among those set free are Waleed al-Ibrahim, the head of MBC television network, and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, a former chief of the royal court.

According to reports, they have paid substantial financial settlements, though the amounts have not been made public.

More than 200 Saudis were detained in the crackdown.

Since then, they have been held in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, which is due to reopen on February 14.

The settlements are likely to have been costly.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was released at the end of November, paid more than $1 billion.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia $100 Billion Scandal: Over 200 People Detained in Anti-Corruption Purge

Media reports suggest that Waleed al-Ibrahim’s deal may have included his controlling share in MBC – the largest media company in the Middle East.

The anti-corruption drive was instigated by Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who has been accused of using the investigation to remove opponents and consolidate his power.

In the aftermath of the purge, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said at least $100 billion had been misused through systemic corruption and embezzlement going back decades.

The detentions – and the expensive settlements – are being characterized by the state as an attempt to recover those funds.

Many more of those detained remain in the Ritz Carlton under guard, until it reopens for Valentine’s Day in mid-February.

Those who do not reach settlements before then are expected to be sent to prison to await trial.

Meanwhile, one of the highest-profile detainees, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told Reuters on January 27 that he expected to be cleared of wrongdoing and “released from custody within days”.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – who is one of Saudi Arabia’s richest people – said he expected to keep full control of his investment firm.

Saudi Arabia has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on November 4.

According to officials, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, the missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The Saudi civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past, though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, said: “The missile was launched indiscriminately to target the civilian and populated areas.

“Shattered fragments from the intercepted missile landed in an uninhabited area of the airport and there were no injuries.”

Witnesses reported seeing parts of the missile in the airport’s car park, Al-Arabiya reported.

Residents in the north of Riyadh said their windows were rattled by a loud blast that was followed by the roar of low-flying aircraft.

Image source Wikimedia

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The Houthi-run Saba News in Yemen said the missile had been a Burkan H2.

The rebel group is believed to have access to a stockpile of Scud ballistic missiles and home-grown variants. Saudi forces have previously brought them down with Patriot surface-to-air missiles bought from the US.

In May, a day before President Donald Trump was due to arrive in Riyadh for a visit, the Houthis fired a missile towards the city, but it was shot down 120 miles from the capital.

Yemen has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign to defeat the Houthis, and is the biggest power in an international air coalition that has bombed the rebel group since 2015.

On November 1, a suspected strike by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 26 people at a hotel and market in northern Yemen, medics and local officials said.

The coalition, which rights groups say has bombed schools, hospitals, markets and residential areas, said it struck a “legitimate military target”.

Late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was buried on January 23 in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery in Riyadh.

Leaders of the Muslim world and thousands of Saudi subjects paid their final respects to King Abdullah at a simple ceremony at a Riyadh mosque after Friday prayer.

In accordance with royal custom, the body of King Abdullah, who died at 1 AM., was swathed in white and laid out for visitation at the Imam Turki ibn Abdullah Grand Mosque in the capital.

The afternoon funeral was attended by Middle East monarchs and a few presidents from countries near enough to Saudi Arabia to travel to the ceremonies that by Islamic practice must be conducted before the next sundown following a believer’s death.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

World leaders who plan to attend memorials scheduled this weekend sent condolences and praise for King Abdullah’s role as a mediator between the West and Islam.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II left the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the funeral and declared 40 days of mourning in his own kingdom.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared “much sadness” at the news of King Abdullah’s passing and announced three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised King Abdullah for “strengthening cooperation and solidarity in the Muslim world, especially concerning the Palestinian question and the situation in Syria.”

Iran, Saudi Arabia’s chief rival in the Muslim world, sent condolences to the Saudi people and said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would travel to Riyadh to pay respects.

Saudi Arabia’s more austere form of Islam eschews public displays of grief and elaborate ritual, even for its monarchs, who are among the world’s richest men.

King Abdullah was reported to have a net worth of $20 billion.

The funeral was open to the public, including women in their separate section of the mosque, and shops and businesses will remain open during a three-day mourning period.

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