Saudis swarm Twitter to mourn king

2014 file photo shows Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaking prior to a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (out of frame) at the King's private residence in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. (AFP)

Joining a swarm of Saudis taking to social media on Friday, veteran news broadcaster Abdullah al-Shihri said he would have preferred not to deliver the official announcement that King Abdullah was dead.

"I did not wish to announce this news," said Shihri, who wore a dark robe and traditional shemagh head covering to deliver the announcement from the royal court.

"May God have mercy on Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Sincere prayers for his successor and crown prince," he wrote.

The ailing Abdullah died early Friday aged about 90, after almost a decade on the throne.

Many Saudis took to the Internet to praise the deceased monarch but some, including campaigners for free speech and women's right to drive, were less flattering.

Abdullah was "loved by the Saudi people and the entire Muslim population. We did not lose a king today, we all lost a father", Ameera Al Taweel said in one of thousands of Twitter messages.

Saudi Army News, an official account, expressed condolences and said: "This Twitter account will stop tweeting for three days in mourning of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, may God rest his soul".

Many tweeted a hadith, or saying of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), that death on a Friday means that one's life ended well.

Some talked of the development Abdullah fostered in the kingdom.

"Spending was generous and golden projects in all regions," wrote Naif al-Qarni.

Saudi Arabia, with a population of about 29 million including around 20 million Saudis, is the only country where women are not allowed to drive.

Abdullah had challenged conservatives with moves such as including women in the Shura Council, an advisory body.

 

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