Saudi prince withdraws Bentley promise to air force pilots

Saudi prince withdraws Bentley promise to air force pilots
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal deletes luxury car offer to 100 pilots involved in Yemen war after criticism from within Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East.
2 min read
22 April, 2015
Talal, personal fortune $43bn, has handed out Bentleys before [AFP]

A Saudi prince has withdrawn his promise of a Bentley car to every air force piliot involved in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen after the offer was condemned on social media.

Alwaleed bin Talal made the offer on Twitter after Saudi Arabia announced "Operation Decisive Storm" had been accomplished and would be replaced by "Operation Restoring Hope".

"I congratulate our wise leaders on the victory... and the beginning of Operation Restoring Hope," said Talal on Twitter. "To recognise the 100 participating Saudi pilots I am pleased to present them with 100 Bentleys."

However, the message was criticised by other Twitter users and swiftly deleted.

@Mohmd_AAlhodaif said: "100 Bentleys are worth around 100 million Riyals, equals a 50-bed hospital in one of your cities. You don't need to make a commotion to prove you're a patriot you need to feel the pain of the country."

Another user, @drrdob, said: "Our pilots, soldiers and border guards have not put their lives in danger in the hope of receiving your gifts but to defend their country and religion."

Some Egyptian users poked fun the gesture, posting a picture of the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a key ally in the Yemen operation, asking the prince, "No Mazdas for the boys?"

The cars have a starting price of $180,000 - but the offer would be petty cash in Talal's $43bn fortune.

Saudi Arabian media reported that Talal's Twitter account had been hacked, and that Saudi law bans soldiers from receiving gifts for performing their duties.

But the prince has form. Last he gave 25 Bentleys to players and staff of Nasr FC after they won Saudi Arabian football league.

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday said that 944 people had been killed and 3,487 wounded in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

The war was intended to limit the expansion of the Houthi rebel group and forces loyal to the country's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. However four weeks of airstrikes have not dislodged the Houthis, who are still in control of large areas of Yemen.