Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has died, weeks after being admitted to hospital.
The 90-year-old monarch, who had ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, had been suffering from pneumonia and died at 01:00 (22:00 GMT Thursday).
Abdullah’s half brother, Salman, has been confirmed as the new King, inheriting the title of “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in Mecca and Medina.
Within hours of his ascension, Salman vowed to rule following the same principles as those that had ruled the oil-rich kingdom before him. In a televised address, he said:
“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment.”
On Twitter, the new King wrote:
“I ask God to help me succeed in my service of the dear [Saudi] people.”
However, questions have been raised about who will succeed the 79-year-old Salman, who is described as being in poor health.
King Abdullah was considered by some to be a slow and steady reformer at home, but others have condemned him for the human rights abuses carried out under his leadership, with the imprisonment and flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, being the most recent reminder of the regime’s brutal tendencies.
Saudi Arabia has also been blamed for using their oil wealth to spread Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam that is the official state religion in the country. Many of the world’s jihadist groups, including the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria base their understanding of Islam on Wahhabism or its close cousin Salafism.
King Abdullah will be buried in an unmarked grave following Friday prayers in keeping with Wahhabi traditions.