Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has arrested three senior royal family members, US media have reported. The detained royals include Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman's younger brother, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the king's nephew, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter

The two senior royals were once in line to the throne. The charges against them are not clear yet but informed sources said they are slapped with treason charges and now face the threat of lifetime imprisonment or execution. The third detained royal figure is Nayef's younger brother Prince Nawaf bin Nayef.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman Reuters

Two years ago, bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, had arrested hundreds of Saudi businessmen, including more than 10 Saudi princes over charges of corruption. The detained people included billionaire businessman Alwaleed bin Talal. There were reports that the men, who were kept in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh for weeks, were subjected to torture.

The WSJ reported that Saudi royal court guards wearing masks and dressed in black raided the homes of the senior royals on Friday morning and took them away.

Series of purges

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has reportedly carried out a series of purges ever since he took the role. Bin Nayef was interior minister and was deemed to succeed the throne after Salman but was removed from office and placed under house arrest in 2017.