A prominent Saudi religious leader has been arrested, according to social media postings on Sunday, in what appears to be a crackdown on militants seen as critics of the conservative kingdom's absolute rulers.
Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential cleric who was imprisoned from 1994-99 for agitating for political change and has 14 million followers on Twitter, appears to have been detained over the weekend, the posting suggested.
"May God harmonise between their hearts for the good of their people," Awdah said on Twitter after a report of a telephone call between Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss ways to resolve the rift which began in June.
Hopes for a breakthrough were quickly dashed when Saudi Arabia suspended any dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of "distorting facts".
Awdah was the second cleric reported detained by Saudi authorities in the past week. Reports on social media said that Awad al-Qarni, another prominent cleric with 2.2 million Twitter followers, was also detained from his home in Abha in southern Saudi Arabia.
Like Awdah, Qarni had also expressed support for reconciliation between Arab countries and Qatar.
Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for a comment on the reported arrests.
The al-Saud family has always regarded militant groups as the biggest internal threat to its rule over a country where appeals to religious sentiment can never be lightly dismissed and where militants have previously targeted the state.
A decade ago it fought off an al Qaeda campaign of attacks targeting officials and foreigners that killed hundreds. In the 1990s, the Sahwa [Awakening] movement inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood demanded political reforms that would have weakened the ruling family.
Reports of the arrests coincided with widespread speculation, dismissed by officials, that King Salman intends to abdicate in favour of Crown Prince Mohammed.
Asked about the reasons for the arrests, a Saudi analyst speculated: "[To] crush the Muslim Brotherhood or scare others if their plan is for him [Crown Prince Mohammed] to be king."
Exiled Saudi opposition activists have called for protests on September 15 intended to galvanise opposition to the royal family.