Joint forces commander Prince Fahad bin Turki, a senior royal family member, and his son Abdulaziz bin Fahad, the deputy emir of northern Al-Jouf region, were fired and placed under investigation for corruption.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends a virtual cabinet meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia August 18, 2020.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends a virtual cabinet meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia August 18, 2020. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has sacked a top military commander and his son over graft allegations.

Joint forces commander Prince Fahad bin Turki, a senior royal family member, and Abdulaziz bin Fahad, the deputy emir of northern Al-Jouf region, were fired and placed under investigation for corruption, according to state media.

Several other officers and civilian employees of the defence ministry were also being probed for corruption, the report added, citing a royal decree from King Salman.

The announcement attributed the actions to a referral by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 35-year-old son of King Salman who earlier carried out mass arrests as part of a similar anti-corruption drive that also targeted potential rivals to his rule.

Prince Fahad served as the commander of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iran-linked Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.

He was replaced by Mutlaq bin Salim, the deputy chief of staff, on the recommendation of the kingdom's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, state media said.

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The government decision to sack the commander was a "very public signal against corruption in the military", said Saudi author and analyst Ali Shihabi.

The announcement marks the latest government crackdown on what officials describe as endemic corruption in the kingdom.

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Senior Saudi security commanders were among a string of officials sacked last month over graft allegations at tourism projects.

War in Yemen

Lt Gen Fahad only took over the kingdom's Yemen war in February 2018, years into the stalemate campaign that still sees the Houthis hold the capital, Sanaa. He previously served as a paratrooper and special forces commander, a s well as oversaw the Royal Saudi Land Forces.

He took over the coalition as part of a mass restructuring of the Saudi military at the time.

The war in Yemen, which has killed over 100,000 people, displaced millions and shattered the Arab world's poorest country, has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It began with Houthi rebels seizing Sanaa in September 2014, then marching south. Saudi Arabia and allied countries entered the conflict in March 2015, led by then-Prince Mohammed as the Saudi defence minister.

The war has become a regional conflict, as the Iranian-backed Houthis hold the north and a variety of forces operate in the south under the umbrella of the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi airstrikes killing civilians and torture of prisoners at Emirati-controlled prisons brought international condemnation to the coalition. The Houthis face outrage over stolen humanitarian aid, indiscriminately using landmines and sending child soldiers into the conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition has splintered as the war drags on, especially after Emirati troops withdrew last year. Separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates have openly fought against Yemen's internationally recognised government, which has been based in Saudi Arabia for years.

That violence has flared again in recent days.

'Unfair legal proceedings'

In March, Human Rights Watch voiced alarm over the arrest of 298 Saudi officials over corruption allegations, warning of possible "unfair legal proceedings" in an opaque judicial system.

Military and judicial officials were among those arrested over allegations of bribery and embezzlement amounting to a total of 379 million riyals ($101 million), according to the state anti-corruption watchdog.

The watchdog said the arrests came after it criminally investigated 674 state employees, but it neither named any of the suspects nor stated when its probe took place.

A campaign against graft launched in 2017 saw hundreds of elite princes, ministers and businessmen detained at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in the capital Riyadh.

Many were held there for weeks and most were subsequently released after agreeing to significant financial settlements. Authorities said they recovered more than 400 billion Saudi riyals ($107 billion).

The anti-graft sweep led by Prince Mohammed was labelled by many critics as a shakedown and a power grab.

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Source: AFP