Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah dies at 86

The Emir was recently admitted to a hospital and was being treated and examined due to a emergency health problem

By Agencies

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 1:55 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 10:41 PM

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, passed away, the state's Amiri Diwan announced on Saturday. He was 86.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we — the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world — mourn the late His Highness the emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who passed away today,” Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Sabah, the minister of his Emiri court, said in a brief statement.

Prior to the announcement, Kuwait's state TV interrupted regular programming to cut to Quranic verses, signalling a death in the royal family.

Public offices will shut for three days and 40 days of mourning were declared.

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Sheikh Nawaf, who will be laid to rest on Sunday, had been hospitalised in November for an undisclosed "emergency", but had been said to be in a stable condition.

Kuwait saw a quick transition to a new emir — with 83-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah taking over, state television reported. Sheikh Mishal, who had already assumed some key constitutional duties of the emir in 2021, has spent most of his career in Kuwait's security and intelligence apparatus.

A soft-spoken 'emir of pardons'

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

Born in 1937, he was the fifth son of Kuwait's late ruler from 1921 to 1950 Sheikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. He started his political career at the age of 25 as governor of Hawalli province, where he remained until 1978 when he started a decade as interior minister.

Sheikh Nawaf had been known as "emir of pardons" as he had issued numerous amnesties during his reign.

He will "be remembered for his unique personal attributes: soft-spoken, devout, modest, low profile", said Bader Al Saif, a history professor at Kuwait University.

In late November, Sheikh Nawaf was rushed to hospital for an unspecified illness. State-run news previously reported that he travelled to the United States for unspecified medical checks in March 2021.

Condolences poured in from around the world

"He served his country for six decades and fulfilled his duty with all sincerity," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on X, formerly Twitter.

Saudi Arabia's royal court said the kingdom "and its people share the sorrows of their brothers in the State of Kuwait".

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the sheikh "a great friend of the UK" and a statement by the Kremlin said "he had great authority in the Middle East."

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