DUBAI: The ruler of the tiny but strategic emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, died on Wednesday at the age of 92, immediately sparking a war of succession between his sons.
"Sheikh Saqr died at dawn on Wednesday in Ras Al-Khaima," WAM, the official news agency of the United Arab Emirates, reported.
Sheikh Saqr, who in past years has suffered from failing health, has since 1948 ruled the emirate located on the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which some 40 percent of the world’s oil is shipped.
WAM said that Sheikh Saqr’s son, Crown Prince Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qassimi, whom it described as the "ruler of Ras Al-Khaima," had announced 40 days of mourning in the emirate.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Saud’s elder brother, Sheikh Khaled bin Saqr Al-Qassimi, proclaimed himself ruler of the emirate in a video message posted on his website soon after his father’s death.
The struggle for power first erupted between the two brothers in 2003 when their father demoted Sheikh Khaled and appointed his younger brother Sheikh Saud as crown prince.
No reasons for the change were ever made public.
"On (my father’s) passing away I should assume his duties and obligations as the ruler of Ras Al-Khaima in accordance with the law and constitution of the United Arab Emirates," Sheikh Khaled said in the video.
"In the coming days and weeks I will be meeting with my family and friends, members of the supreme council, and rulers of the UAE outlining my agenda for the hundred days of my lawful leadership," he added.
"I have watched with growing concern as Ras Al-Khaima has recently strayed from my father’s lifelong mission of always putting the people first," he said, criticising his brother’s rule.
Ras Al-Khaimah is one of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates. The others are Abu Dhabi, which also serves as the capital, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and Umm Al-Qaiwain.