By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 24, 2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman underwent a “successful surgery” to remove his appendix Wednesday, the royal court said, and he left the hospital soon after the operation.

The 35-year-old prince had surgery for appendicitis at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in the morning, according to the royal court. The official statement described the operation as laparoscopic, meaning that no large incision was made.

Late Wednesday, Saudi state-run media published footage of the crown prince, surrounded by an entourage clad in traditional checkered headdresses, striding out of the fluorescent-lit hospital and into a waiting black Mercedes.

“He has left the hospital in health and wellness,” the royal court announced, without providing further details.

Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman, has amassed immense powers in the kingdom since being appointed heir to the throne in 2017.

His rapid rise, brash unpredictability and ambitious efforts to liberalize the deeply conservative society and overhaul the economy has shattered decades of tradition, attracting international attention and criticism. He has sidelined rivals to consolidate authority and moved to quash all dissent.

As part of his push to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy, state-run media announced earlier Wednesday that the Saudi sovereign wealth fund was pouring $3 billion into a new project: the transformation of a southwestern province near the kingdom’s border with war-torn Yemen into a major tourist destination.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund aims to build up to 2,700 hotel rooms and 1,300 homes, along with other “entertainment and tourism” projects, in the mountainous Asir region, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Under the so-called Vision 2030 program, Prince Mohammed is aiming for tourism to contribute 10% of Saudi Arabia‘s gross domestic product. The campaign to draw visitors and foreign investment has sputtered in recent months amid the surging pandemic, putting pressure on the national budget.

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