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Saudi Arabia

Saudi security shoots down toy drone near royal palace

King Salman was not at the palace at the time but was rushed to a bunker

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 9:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 7:04pm

Saudi Arabian security forces said they had shot down a recreational drone in the capital on Saturday night after online videos showing gunfire in a neighbourhood where royal palaces are located sparked fears of possible political unrest.

The Riyadh police spokesman, quoted by the official Saudi News Agency (SPA), said a security screening point noticed the flying of a small unauthorised recreational drone at 7:50pm local time, leading security forces to deal with it according to their orders and instructions.

There were no casualties, and King Salman was not at his palace at the time, a senior Saudi official said.

“The king was at his farm in Diriya,” the official said, naming another area of the capital.

Amateur footage circulating earlier on social media showed loud gunfire that lasted for at least 30 seconds, leading to speculation online about a possible coup attempt in the world’s top oil exporter and questions about the whereabouts of the king and crown prince.

One video showed two police cars parked in the middle of a dark street. Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos’ authenticity.

Asked about the footage, the official said the drone had been shot down, and added that the government would introduce regulations for the use of recreational drones.

Saudi Arabia has witnessed a series of radical political changes over the past year under the king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has spearheaded reforms to transform the economy, open the country culturally, and impose a more tolerant form of Islam in the deeply conservative kingdom.

The 32-year-old leader overthrew his older cousin as crown prince last summer in a palace coup then jailed dozens of businessmen and senior royals, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and National Guard head Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, in an anti-corruption sweep.

Most of the detainees have been released after reaching settlements with the government.

Space for criticism has also narrowed in recent months following the arrests of prominent clerics and activists in an apparent bid to silence dissent.