• King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz had been in hospital since December suffering from pneumonia
  • He took power in 2005 after the death of his half-brother King Fahd and was thought to be 91, although official accounts are unclear
  • King Abdullah was admitted to the King Abdulaziz Medical City of the National Guard in Riyadh in December to undergo medical tests
  • The royal court earlier this month said that the king was suffering from pneumonia and had temporarily needed help to breathe through a tube

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz – the powerful U.S. ally who sought to modernise the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms – has died aged 91, it has been confirmed.

The royal had been in hospital since December, battling pneumonia.

King Abdullah’s half-brother Salman has become king, a statement attributed to Salman said.

His death was confirmed on state television early on Friday morning, Saudi time, with channels cutting to Koranic verses – an action which often signifies the death of a top royal.

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