Heavy gunfire reported in Riyadh tonight was due a toy drone which was shot down near the royal palace – amid claims of a ‘coup’.
A police spokesman said forces at a checkpoint in the Khozama district, where the palace is based, identified the drone and “dealt with it according to their orders”, local media said.
The official explanation came after wildly conflicting reports on social media speculating on the cause of the shooting, which was caught on camera and posted online.
Senior Saudi officials said King Salman was not in the palace at the time despite repeated Twitter reports he was moved to a military bunker in the city.
“The king was at his farm in Diriya,” an official said, naming another area of the capital.
Videos posted on Twitter captured the sound of bullets near the royal residence, sparking a frenzy of claims.
Early reports speculated that gunfire broke out as part of an attempted coup.
But Saudi and foreign journalists said a drone had flown near a security checkpoint, causing it to be shot down.
The accounts were later confirmed by a senior Saudi official.
The drone was noticed at 7.50pm local time, 4.50pm UK time, police in Riyadh said.
Wall Street Journal reporter Margherita Stancati tweeted: “No coup attempt in Riyadh. A toy drone/plane got too close too the King’s palace and was shot down.”
Saudi journalist Awad Alfayadh posted: “A toy drone flownaround a restricted ireas in Riyadh close to Securety check point. They had to shot it down according to the lows.”
There have been no confirmed reports of injuries and damage, if any, has been unspecified.
Tonight’s flashpoint in Riyadh came two days after a reported shooting in which Saudi security officers were shot dead.
On Thursday, four members of Saudi Arabia’s security forces were killed and four others wounded in clashes with gunmen on Thursday at a checkpoint in the southwestern Asir province, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said.
One gunman was killed and two detained, the broadcaster said on Twitter, citing the Saudi interior ministry, without providing more details.
Asir province borders Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling the armed Houthi group, but it was not immediately clear if the incident was related to that three-year-old war.
The drama in Saudi Arabia also comes the day after a historic moment in the country as dozens of families flocked to the cinema for the first time in almost 40 years.
US superhero movie “Black Panther” was screened in the country, which once deemed the form of entertainment as corrupting and un-Islamic.
“It’s like a historical event that happened here,” said Mana, an usher at the movie theatre in the King Abdullah Financial District, a new development in northern Riyadh.
Movie houses were closed in the early 1980s when they were deemed inconsistent with a strict interpretation of Islam.
They are now returning through a drive by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to open the country culturally and diversify its economy.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a series of radical political changes over the past year as the king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ousted his cousin as crown prince and then jailed senior royals in an anti-corruption sweep.
He has also eased other social restrictions, including on public concerts, women driving and gender mixing.
Prince Salman returned from a month-long foreign tour earlier this month.
The senior Saudi official said a system would be put in place to regulate the use of recreational drones.
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