Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Nawab Al Ahmad Al Sabah, 86, has died, state television reported.
Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Nawab Al Ahmad Al Sabah, 86, died on Saturday.
Kuwaiti state television entered programs with Quranic verses.
“With great sadness and grief, we – the people of Kuwait, the Arab and Islamic countries, and the friendly people of the world – the late Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, passed away to His Lordship. Today, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Sabah, Minister of His Emiri Court, read a brief statement.
Officials have not released a cause of death.
Kuwait’s deputy ruler and his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber, now 83, is believed to be the world’s oldest crown prince.
He is about to be sworn in as the ruler of Kuwait.
In late November, Sheikh Nawaf was taken to hospital for an unspecified illness.
Since then, the small, oil-rich nation has been waiting for word on his health.
State-run news previously reported that he had traveled to the US for unspecified medical tests in March 2021.
The health of Kuwait’s leaders has been a hot topic in the Middle Eastern nation that borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has seen internal power struggles behind palace doors.
Sheikh Nawaf took over as emir in 2020 following the death of his predecessor, the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
The breadth and depth of emotion at the loss of Sheikh Sabah, known for diplomacy and peace, was felt across the region.
Sheikh Nawaf previously served as Kuwait’s Minister of Interior and Defense, but has not been particularly active in government outside of those terms.
However, he was largely an uncontroversial choice for emir, although analysts suggested his tenure would be short due to his advanced age.
The Sheikh Nawab’s tenure has focused on domestic issues as he struggles through political disputes — including an overhaul of Kuwait’s welfare system — that have prevented the sheikhdom from receiving loans.
Despite amassing enormous wealth from its oil reserves, its coffers have little to pay huge public sector salaries.
In 2021, Sheikh Nawaf issued a long-awaited amnesty decree, pardoning the sentences of nearly three dozen Kuwaiti dissidents and commuting a major government standoff.
He announced another shortly before he fell ill, aiming to resolve a political deadlock that has seen Kuwait hold three separate parliamentary elections under his rule.
Kuwait is considered to have the most independent parliament in the Gulf, allowing relatively less dissent.
Meanwhile, Gulf Cooperation Council countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have restored ties after years of boycotting Doha, easing regional tensions and allowing the Sheikh Nawab to focus on domestic issues.
Slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey, Kuwait is a country of about 4.2 million people and has the world’s sixth largest oil reserves.
It has been a staunch US ally since the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s occupying Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War.
Kuwait is home to about 13,500 US troops and the US military’s forward headquarters in the Middle East.