Kuwait ruler and key US ally Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah died on Tuesday, his office announced on state television.
He was 91.
“With the utmost sadness and grief for the Kuwaiti people, the Islamic and Arab world and people of friendly nations, the Emiri Diwan mourns the death of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait,” Royal Court Minister Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al Sabah said following Quranic prayers.
No details about the cause or location of the death were announced, although Al Jazeera said the sheikh died in a hospital in the US, where he had been treated for an unspecified medical “setback” since July.
He had been flown by US Air Force C-17 flying hospital from Kuwait to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the flagship campus of the Mayo Clinic — a sign of how highly regarded the foreign head of state was as a US ally.
The emir had his appendix removed in 2002, two years after having a pacemaker fitted, and had urinary tract surgery in 2007, Al Jazeera said.
He is expected to be succeeded by his half brother, the crown prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
Born in June 1929, Sheikh Sabah became Kuwait’s foreign minister in 1963 — a position he served for 40 years before becoming prime minister in 2003.
He became emir 2006 after a 64-0 vote by parliament — the first time in Kuwait’s history that the legislature had a role in choosing its ruler.
Before then, his country’s greatest crisis came in 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied the nation for seven months.
Fleeing with other Kuwaiti officials to neighboring Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Sabah collapsed and lost consciousness during one particularly tense meeting of Arab leaders.
The invasion ended on Feb. 24, 1991, when US troops and their allies stormed Kuwait, with over 20,000 Iraqi soldiers killed.
Kuwait remains a vital US ally and still hosts 3,500 American troops, many at Camp Arifjan south of Kuwait City, home to the forward command of US Army Central.
A longtime widower, Sheikh Sabah lived for years in a palace known as Dar Salwa, which was named after his daughter Salwa, who died of cancer in 2002. He is survived by two sons.
With Post wires