The Saudi prince who offered Bentleys to bombers

SAUDI AIR FORCE Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pilots of Saudi planes like these were offered luxury cars by a wealthy prince

A wealthy Saudi royal attracted criticism on social media after he apparently offered luxury cars to fighter pilots participating in a bombing campaign in Yemen.

Earlier this week Saudi Arabia announced the end of the first phase of its military campaign in Yemen. And in a celebratory gesture Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the country's richest men and a member of the Saudi royal family, tweeted to his 3m followers on Twitter: "In appreciation of their role in this operation, I'm honoured to offer 100 Bentley cars to the 100 Saudi [fighter] pilots".

The offer immediately split opinion. More than 28,000 people shared his post and over 5,000 liked it. The prince was hailed for his "generosity" and several Saudis commented that the pilots deserved luxury automobiles - and much more - for their military service.

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But many outside Saudi Arabia, particularly in Yemen, found his offer outright offensive - and so an online backlash began. "100 Bentley cars to 100 pilots who bombed Yemen. Not single ambulance to its hospitals they devastated" remarked one Yemeni on Twitter.

Another Yemeni who had previously shared photos showing the destruction of his home following a Saudi air strike tweeted: "Prince Al Waleed gave 100 Bentleys to Saudi pilots. I got my apartment blown up. Yet I bet my spirits are higher than all those pilots."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Al-Saud

Others pointed to the disparity between people's lives in Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries, and those who live in relatively rich Saudi Arabia. "So that's what it's all about, what was it 100 or 200 lives for a Bentley, that's how cheap human life is," a Jordanian tweeted.

Image copyright Twitter

The original tweet offering the gifts has now been deleted, although screen grabs of it are still circulating online. Some Saudi media are now reporting that the prince's Twitter account was hacked. But there was no mention of any hacking on his Twitter feed - and he did not respond to Trending's request for comment.

Last year the prince, who's renowned for his lavish lifestyle and ostentatious gift-giving, offered a local football team 25 cars after they won the Saudi championship, a move that touched off a debate in Saudi about who should be offered gifts and who shouldn't.

Blog by Mai Noman

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