Multiple people feared dead in helicopter crash that kills Saudi prince

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An MH-60R helicopter, attached to the USS Sampson (DDG 102), approaches an Indonesian patrol vessel
An MH-60R helicopter, attached to the USS Sampson (DDG 102), approaches an Indonesian patrol vessel while searching for debris. Reuters/U.S. Navy

A Saudi prince was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash. His death comes on the heels of a crackdown that has seen the arrests of princes and former ministers.

Authorities have confirmed that Saudi Arabian Prince Mansour Bin Muqrin died in a helicopter crash near the border with Yemen. Muqrin was travelling with several other officials, and information about the fate of others aboard the aircraft was not immediately available. According to Saudi news outlet Okaz, unconfirmed reports suggested there were no survivors.

"His Royal Highness Prince Mansour bin Muqrin Al Saud, who was appointed Deputy Governor of Asir in 22 April 2017, was killed in a helicopter crash while performing an inspection in remote parts of The Governorate,” a spokesperson for the Saudi embassy told NBC News. She added that the prince was accompanied by several other officials of the Asir Governorate and local municipalities.

According to a Daily Mail report, the helicopter went off radar. Multiple people are feared dead, although it was not immediately known how many were on the flight with Bin Muqrin.

The cause of the crash remains unknown. Saudi Arabia said it intercepted a ballistic missile near Riyadh airport on Saturday.

Bin Muqrin’s death comes on the heels of an investigation that targeted dozens of people, including 11 princes and four ministers. The move is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Mohammed has been tightening his grip on power with an anti-corruption purge of the kingdom's upper ranks. Saudi Arabia's Finance Ministry said the new anti-corruption committee enhanced confidence in the rule of law, Al Arabiya television reports.

But FACTS Global Energy founder Fereidun Fesharaki said it is not possible to remove and imprison all top princes, CNBC reports. For Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy and a former Shell executive, the anti-corruption campaign is "clearly a preemptive move” by bin Salman to further establish his authority and get rid of opposition to his reform plans.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the Middle East's richest people, was among those detained in the corruption crackdown. He supposedly has investments in Twitter and Apple.

Bin Muqrin is the son of another former crown prince. Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, his father, was pushed aside by his half-brother King Salman after he took the throne in 2015. Bin Abdulaziz was a also former director-general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency.

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