The Saudi defense ministry announced in a statement on Sunday that Riyadh ruler Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdolaziz has attended the ceremony instead of bin Salman.
The statement declined to comment on the reason of bin Salman’s absence while naturally the defense minister should participate in such ceremonies.
Last Thursday, an Iranian daily reported that bin Salman is likely dead after an assassination attempt on his life last month, claiming intel from the security service of an Arab state.
According to the Persian-language newspaper, Keyhan, a secret service report sent to the senior officials of an unnamed Arab state disclosed that bin Salman has been hit by two bullets during the April 21 attack on his palace, adding that he might well be dead as he has never appeared in the public ever since.
Heavy gunfire was heard near the Saudi King’s palace in Riyadh Saudi Arabia on April 21, while King Salman was taken to a US bunker at an airbase in the city.
A growing number of videos surfaced the media at the time displaying that a heavy gunfire erupted around King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s palace in the capital, Riyadh.
Reports said the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were evacuated to a bunker at an airbase in the city that is under the protection of the US troops.
While Saudi officials and media were quiet over the incident, there were contradicting reports over the incident. Witnesses and residents of the neighborhoods near the palace said a coup was underway, adding that the soldiers attacking the palace were guided by footage and intel they were receiving from a drone flying over the palace.
Saudi opposition members claimed that “a senior ground force officer has led a raid on the palace to kill the king and the crown prince”.
Videos also showed that a growing number of armored vehicles were deployed around the palace. ‘Bin Salman’s special guard’ then took charge of security in the capital. Riyadh’s sky was then closed to all civil and military flights as military helicopters from ‘Bin Salman’s special guard’ were flying over the palace.
Bin Salman was a man who almost often appeared before the media but his 27-day absence since the gunfire in Riyadh has raised questions about his health.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has witnessed a series of radical political changes over the past year as Mohammed bin Salman ousted his cousin as crown prince and jailed well-known princes in an anti-corruption purge.
Moreover, bin Salman oversees social and economic reforms that have been censured by several powerful Wahhabi clerics.
Saudi Arabia is also embroiled in a long running conflict in its Southern neighbor Yemen, dubbed by the United Nations as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Notably, bin Salman made no media appearance during the April 28 visit of the newly-appointed US State Secretary Mike Pompeo to Riyadh, his first foreign trip as the top US diplomat.
During his stay in Riyadh, Saudi media outlets published images of Pompeo’s meetings with King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
This is while the state-run outlets used to publish images of meetings in Riyadh between bin Salman and former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
A few days after the April 21 incident, Saudi media published footage and images of bin Salman meeting several Saudi and foreign officials. But the date of the meetings could not be verified, so the release of the videos could be aimed at dispelling rumors about bin Salman’s conditions.
It is not clear if bin Salman’s disappearance is due to reasons such as him feeling threatened or being injured in the incident.