Sultan Qaboos of Oman dies aged 79. Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the longest-serving monarch in the Arab world, died at the age of 79.
In 1970, the sultan deposed his father in a bloodless coup with British support and, using his oil wealth, set Oman on a path toward development.
Widely considered popular, he was also an absolute monarch and silenced any dissenting voices.
No causes of death were confirmed. He was sworn in as his successor by his cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said.
The former Minister of Culture and Heritage took office oath after a Royal Family Council meeting on Saturday, the government said.
The sultan is Oman’s sole decision-maker. He also holds the offices of the prime minister, armed forces supreme commander, minister of defense, finance minister and foreign minister.
Last month Sultan Qaboos-who had no heir or successor appointed-spent a week in medical treatment in Belgium and there were reports that he had cancer.
“The royal court mourns His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said who passed away on Friday with great sorrow and deep sadness,” a court statement said earlier, announcing three days of national mourning.
Images showed a crowd of men gathering in the capital city of Muscat outside the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque where the coffin had been taken and prayers were offered.
Over nearly five decades, Sultan Qaboos has totally controlled Oman’s political life, home to 4.6 million people, some 43 percent of whom are expatriates.
At the age of 29, he overthrew his father, Said bin Taimur, a reclusive and ultra-conservative ruler who banned a variety of things, including listening to the radio or wearing sunglasses, and decided who could get married, educated or leave the country.
Sultan Qaboos immediately declared that he intended to establish a modern government and use oil money to develop a country where paved roads and three schools were only 10 km (six miles) away at the time.
He crushed an insurgency in the southern province of Dhofar with tribesmen supported by the Communist People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen during the first few years of his rule, with the aid of British special forces.
Described as charismatic and visionary, he followed a balanced foreign affairs course and was able to facilitate clandestine US-Iran negotiations in 2013 that led to a historic nuclear deal two years later.
During the so-called Arab Spring, a degree of instability exploded in 2011. There was no major upheaval in Oman, but thousands of people across the country took to the streets demanding better pay, more employment and an end to corruption.
The demonstrations were initially welcomed by security forces but later tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition was used to suppress them. Two people were killed and dozens injured.
Under laws criminalizing “illegal meetings” and “insulting the sultan,” hundreds were charged.
The protests have failed to bring about anything in the way of major change.
Yet Sultan Qaboos dismissed many long-serving ministers viewed as corrupt, broadened the Consultative Council’s powers and vowed to create more jobs in the public sector.
Since then, according to Human Rights Watch, the authorities have continued to block government-critical local independent newspapers and magazines, confiscate books, and harass activists. News report on Sultan Qaboos of Oman dies aged 79.