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Kuwait’s ruling emir, the 86-year-old Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, has died, state television reported Saturday.

Kuwait TV broke into programming with Quranic verses just before making the announcement.

In late November, Sheikh Nawaf was rushed to hospital for an unspecified illness.

In the time since, the tiny, oil-rich nation had been waiting for news about his health.

State-run news previously reported that he traveled to the United States for unspecified medical checks in March 2021.

The health of Kuwait’s leaders remains a sensitive matter in the Middle Eastern nation bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which has seen internal power struggles behind palace doors.

Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as emir following the 2020 death of his predecessor, the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

The ruling emir of oil-rich Kuwait was hospitalized Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, “due to an emergency health problem” but later was in stable condition, the state-run KUNA news agency reported. AP

The breadth and depth of emotion over the loss of Sheikh Sabah, known for his diplomacy and peacemaking, was felt across the region.

Sheikh Nawaf previously served as Kuwait’s interior and defense minister but wasn’t seen as particularly active in government outside those terms.

However, he was largely an uncontroversial choice for emir, though his advancing age led analysts to suggest his tenure would be short.


Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (C), Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah (L) and Parliament Speaker Jasem al-Khorafi (R) attend a military parade in Kuwait City, 07 March 2007.
Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah (C), Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah (L), and Parliament Speaker Jasem al-Khorafi (R) attend a military parade in Kuwait City on March 7, 2007. AFP via Getty Images

Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad Al Jaber, now 83, is believed to be the world’s oldest crown prince. He is in line to take over as Kuwait’s ruler.

Kuwait, a nation home to some 4.2 million people which is slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.

It has been a staunch US ally since the 1991 Gulf War expelled the occupying Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein.

Kuwait hosts some 13,500 American troops in the country, as well as the forward headquarters of the US Army in the Middle East.

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