Saudi state television on Monday interrupted regular broadcasting with recitations of the Koran and announced that King Fahd had died in hospital. Just last week, Saudi officials said the health of the King improved after over two months in hospital. Several common law prisoners were released to mark his "recovery."
The monarch, who is believed to be 84, was admitted to hospital in Riyadh on May 27, but there has been no official medical report about his condition.
Crown Prince Abdullah, the king's 81-year-old half brother and the kingdom's de factor ruler in the past decade, was appointed the new monarch. Visitors who saw King Fahd after his 1995 stroke reported he was barely aware of what was going on around him. Even before the stroke, he suffered from arthritis, diabetes and a bad knee. He also underwent cataract surgery once in 2002 in Geneva and a year later in Riyadh. A few days before the Geneva surgery, he was operated on to remove a blood clot from one of his eyes.
On Monday, the Saudi statement said the new King Abdullah declared that his half brother and the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, 77, would be Saudi Arabia's next crown prince.
"With all sorrow and sadness, the royal court in the name of his highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and all members of the family announces the death of the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz," according to a statement read on state-run Saudi TV by the country's information minister.
King Fahd's death drew expressions of sadness from many Arab nations, with Jordan announcing a 40-day mourning period. "Saudi Arabia has lost one of its dutiful sons, a leader among the most dear of its leaders and men," reacted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.