The ruler of the UAE emirate of Ras al-Khaimah died at dawn after several months in hospital, official reports say.
Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad al-Qasimi (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) was in his early 90s. A week of official mourning has been declared.
Wam, the official news agency, says he will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Sheikh Saud who has effectively ruled the emirate since 2003.
Although analysts think the succession should go smoothly, there are fears of a power struggle between Sheikh Saud and his elder half-brother, Sheikh Khalid.
Until 2003, Sheikh Khalid was the crown prince of Ras al-Khaimah, before being sidelined in favour of the US-educated Sheikh Saud.
Tiny but strategic
On Wednesday Sheikh Khalid posted a video on his website in which he proclaimed himself the ruler of Ras al-Khaimah.
“In the coming days and weeks I will be meeting with my family and friends and members of the Supreme Council, rulers of the emirates, outlining my agenda for the first 100 days of my lawful leadership pursuing legal implementation of my father’s vision for RAK,” he said in the video, which carried English subtitles.
But since he has little support from tribal leaders in Ras al-Khaimah or the rulers of the other UAE emirates, observers say he is unlikely to win power
In order to forestall any challenges to the succession, the UAE federal authorities have moved quickly.
The Federal Supreme Council, made up of the rulers of each of the UAE’s seven emirates, announced its “full support” for Sheikh Saud, 54, as Ras al-Khaimah’s new leader, in a statement carried by Wam.
Sheikh Saqr was one of the world’s longest reigning monarchs because he had ruled Ras al-Khaimah, the northernmost emirate, since the late 1940s.
Though it is tiny, Ras al-Khaimah emirate is strategic. It is located on the Strait of Hormuz, close to the Iranian coastline.