Saudi Arabia arrests princes, ex-ministers: report

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, shown here attending an investment forum in October, has launched a sweeping purge (AFP Photo/FAYEZ NURELDINE) (AFP/File)

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's newly formed anti-corruption commission arrested 10 princes and dozens of former government ministers on Saturday, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported, citing unnamed sources.

The arrests came soon after the commission, headed by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was established by royal decree.

"Arrest of 10 princes and dozens of former ministers in Saudi Arabia," Al Arabiya tweeted.

There was no official confirmation of the arrests.

The 32-year-old crown prince, often known as MBS, is set to be the first millennial to occupy the throne in a country where half the population is under 25, though the timing of his ascension remains unknown.

Already viewed as the de facto ruler controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy, Prince Mohammed is widely seen to be stamping out traces of internal dissent before a formal transfer of power from his 81-year-old father King Salman.

In September the authorities arrested about two dozen people, including influential clerics, in what activists denounced as a coordinated crackdown.

Analysts said many of those detained were resistant to Prince Mohammed's aggressive foreign policy that includes the boycott of Gulf neighbour Qatar as well as some of his bold policy reforms, including privatising state assets and cutting subsidies.