Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman, who ruled the Middle Eastern nation for 50 years, has died aged 79.
‘With great sorrow and deep sadness… the royal court mourns His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who passed away on Friday,’ a court statement said.
Three days of mourning will now be marked for the reclusive leader, who transformed the former Arabian Peninsula backwater into a modern state.
His death, reportedly from colon cancer, comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East after Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport last week.
The sultan will be succeeded by his cousin and Oman’s culture minister Haitham bin Tariq, who was sworn in as the new leader on Saturday.
‘Haitham bin Tariq was sworn in as the new sultan of the country… after a meeting of the family which decided to appoint the one who was chosen by the sultan,’ the government confirmed.
Sultan Qaboos, the longest-reigning leader of the modern Arab world, was unmarried and had no children, and left no apparent heir.
According to the Omani constitution, the royal family had three days to determine the successor and if they failed to agree, the person chosen by Qaboos in a letter addressed to the family would be the successor.
Most experts had expected the throne to go to Asad bin Tariq, another cousin, who was appointed deputy prime minister for international relations and cooperation affairs in 2017 in what was seen as a clear message of support.
Haitham, a sports enthusiast, held the position of undersecretary of the ministry of foreign affairs for political affairs before becoming the minister of heritage and culture in the mid-1990s.
The death of Sultan Qaboos was announced by the state-run Oman News Agency on its official Twitter account late last night.