King Salman of Saudi Arabia has fired the military chief of staff and numerous senior commanders in an unexpected shake-up of the military establishment, state media said on Monday.
The monarch of the oil-rich Gulf country also replaced the heads of the air defences and ground forces, as well as senior officials at the interior ministry, in a series of late-night royal decrees.
No “official” reason has been given for the unexpected changes, but it comes as the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen against the Houthi rebels approaches its third year.
The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said: “Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff”.
Al-Bunyan’s sacking came after he inaugurated a major exhibition this week by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) – the state-owned defence company – which showcases current efforts to reform the sector.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the country’s defence minister and has been consolidating his grip on power over the past 12 months.
The changes come in the midst of an increasingly dire situation in Yemen.
A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a conflict that has led to what the United Nations has described as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
More than 9,200 people have died – mainly civilians – and a further 2,200 Yemenis have died of cholera amid deteriorating sanitation conditions, according to the World Health Organisation.