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Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Dies; Witnessed A New Era

Saudi state TV reported Friday Saudi King Abdullah died at the age of 90.
Brendan Smialowski AP
Saudi state TV reported Friday Saudi King Abdullah died at the age of 90.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, left, speaks in 2010 with Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi King's brother and Riyadh Governor, right. With Abdullah's death on Thursday, Prince Salman, the king's 79-year-old half-brother, will ascend to the throne. He recently had been leading in the ailing king's stead.
AP
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, left, speaks in 2010 with Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi King's brother and Riyadh Governor, right. With Abdullah's death on Thursday, Prince Salman, the king's 79-year-old half-brother, will ascend to the throne. He recently had been leading in the ailing king's stead.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has died. The health of Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud had previously been the subject of rumors; word emerged earlier this month that he was indeed ill with a lung infection.

Abdullah was 90 years old. He ruled Saudi Arabia for nearly 10 years, having assumed the throne after his brother King Fahd died in 2005.

The kingdom's new ruler is King Salman, Abdullah's half-brother, according to state TV.

The news has just emerged. We'll update this post as we learn new details.

"Abdullah was born before Saudi Arabia was even a country," NPR's Kelly McEvers reports for our Parallels blog.

But in his lifetime, he saw the country rise to prominence — thanks to the discovery in 1938 of massive oil reserves.

Abdullah's death comes as Saudi Arabia faces two difficult tasks: insulating itself from the civil unrest and terrorist violence that have beset other countries in the region; and maintaining its primacy in the world's oil market.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET: Salman And Saudi Arabia's 'Challenges'

Abdullah's recent illness forced him into a hospital – and forced him to miss delivering an annual address to the country earlier this month. Instead, his half-brother, the then-Crown Prince Salman, stepped in to give the speech, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reported.

"Today, as you know, your country is facing unprecedented regional challenges," Salman told Saudi Arabia's citizens. "That should make us cautious, and I would like to assure you that your leadership is aware of these challenges and their consequences."

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