Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced on Saturday that 47 people, including Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, convicted of plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks, targeting civilians and security forces, were executed.
The ministry statement, published on the official Saudi Press Agency, said the 47 had been convicted of adopting the radical "takfiri" ideology, joining "terrorist organizations" and implementing various "criminal plots."
Most of those executed were involved in a series of attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda from 2003-06 that killed Saudis and foreigners in the Kingdom, the interior ministry statement added.
Among those executed, 45 were of Saudi nationality, alongside one Chadian and one Egyptian, according to a list of names and nationalities published by SPA.
The 47 men were based across 12 regions in the Kingdom and the executions were carried out in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah and the Eastern Province, the interior ministry statement added.
They were convicted of plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks targeting civilians and security forces in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.
The Interior Ministry statement began with verses from the Qur’an and state television showed footage of the aftermath of Al-Qaeda attacks in the last decade that killed hundreds.
Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.
Meanwhile, the Iranian government and Shia leaders have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of the Shia cleric convicted of terrorism along with 46 others and warned of repercussions.
In a serious escalation of religious and diplomatic tensions in the region, councils and clerics in Iran, Yemen and Lebanon said the killing of Nimr al-Nimr would prompt widespread anger, The Guardian reported.
In Bahrain, police fired teargas at several dozen people protesting against the cleric’s execution, a witness said. Demonstrators carrying pictures of Nimr faced security forces in a standoff in Abu-Saiba, a Shia village west of the capital, Manama.
The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.
The executions are Saudi Arabia’s first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a significant increase on the 90 people killed in 2014.