On Saturday, King Abdullah issued a royal decree naming Prince Muqrin, the youngest of the kingdom's founder King Abdul-Aziz's surviving sons, as the head of the General Intelligence Presidency of the Gulf Arab state, which has been battling a wave of al-Qaida linked violence for two years.

The previous intelligence chief, Prince Nawaf bin Abdul-Aziz, had stayed in his post until January despite suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2002. Former King Fahd appointed him as an adviser at a ministerial level.

 

National security council

 

The move comes a week after King Abdullah set up a seven-member national security council, which includes the defence, interior and foreign ministers, as part of a broader move to fortify security in the country.

 

The statement also said King Abdullah had relieved the former vice-president of intelligence, Prince Saud bin Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz, from his post.

 

Saudi Arabia has been battling violence by supporters of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. They have targeted Westerners and security forces in the world's biggest oil exporter.

 

More than 90 foreign and Saudi civilians have been killed since May 2003 in the violence aimed at toppling the pro-Western royal family and evicting non-Muslims from the birthplace of Islam.