King Abdullah sacks second top defense official

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ABU DHABI — King Abdullah has expanded his purge of the Saudi

On May 10, Abdullah dismissed the commander of the Royal Saudi Air
Force, Gen. Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Ayesh. The royal decree, which named a
successor, did not elaborate.

Saudi King Abdullah.

Saudi King Abdullah.

“The order instructed the defense minister to act accordingly and
immediately,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The decree said Al Ayesh would not be offered another position, rather
sent into retirement. His successor was identified as Maj. Gen. Fayad Bin
Hamid Al Ruwaili, promoted to full general.

“The decision to retire General Al Ayesh on pension and appoint his
replacement was taken upon recommendations of the defense minister,” the royal decree said.

Al Ayesh had been Air Force commander since 2010. He had overseen the
$29.4 billion program to purchase 84 F-15 fighter-jets as well as upgrades
from the U.S. firm Boeing.

This marked the second dismissal of a leading member of the Saudi
military and defense establishment in a month. In April, Abdullah fired
Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, who held the post since

At the time, the royal palace did not explain the dismissal of Khalid,
the son of the late Crown Prince Sultan and succeeded by Salman Bin Abdul
Aziz. But diplomatic sources said the king concluded that the pro-U.S.
Khalid had exceeded his authority.

On May 11, Salman, said to be suffering from dementia, met the new Air
Force chief as well as the outgoing Al Ayesh. The meeting was attended by
the new deputy defense minister, Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed, and
Salman’s son, Mohammed.

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