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The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has died aged 73, triggering a 40-day period of mourning.
His death was announced today by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, but no details of its circumstance were given.
Writing on Twitter, his half brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said: “The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the ‘empowerment phase’ and guardian of its blessed journey.”
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs condoles the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nation and the world over the demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE,” a statement from state news agency WAM read.
إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون .. فقدت الإمارات ابنها البار وقائد "مرحلة التمكين" وأمين رحلتها المباركة.. مواقفه وإنجازاته وحكمته وعطاؤه ومبادراته في كل زاوية من زوايا الوطن.. خليفة بن زايد، أخي وعضيدي ومعلمي ، رحمك الله بواسع رحمته وأدخلك في رضوانه وجنانه.
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) May 13, 2022
Reports have previously suggested that the late Sheikh Khalifa owned approximately £1.4billion in luxury properties in London through shell companies.
He was dubbed by Forbes as the richest sheikh in the UAE and among the world’s wealthiest monarchs. As well as running one of the largest sovereign wealth funds - with alleged assets of $830 billion - Khalifa controls 97.8 billion barrels of oil reserves.
The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 829.8 m (2,722 ft), was also named in his honour.
Khalifa was the UAE’s second president and has served as leader since 2004, seeing it through the turbulent 2008 financial crisis.
His half-brother Mohammed has been the de facto ruler of the Gulf country for years, an OPEC oil producer and a major trade and tourism hub which has moved to build its political influence in the region and abroad.
He is set to become the new ruler of Abu Dhabi, which holds most of the UAE‘s oil wealth and has held the presidency since the founding of the UAE federation by Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, in 1971. He is also expected to become the new president.
On behalf of the people of Israel I send my deepest condolences to my friend Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed and his family on the death of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. This is a great loss for our friends in the UAE and for the whole region.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) May 13, 2022
“Sheikh Khalifa’s bold leadership contributed so much to the advancement of the UAE and its people and to the growing partnership between our countries and is a great legacy for his successors,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog, as world leaders began paying tribute to the late president.
Over the course of his leadership, Khalifa stood at the helm of major economic overhaul and modernisation while managing the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. He also encouraged the UAE’s acquisition of Manchester City football club in 2010.