By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric and dozens of al Qaeda members on Saturday, signalling it would not tolerate attacks by either sunni jihadists or minority shi'ites seeking equality, but stirring sectarian anger across the region. Scores of Shi'ite Muslims marched through the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province in protest at the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimra, an eyewitness said. They chanted "down with the Al Saud", the name of the ruling Saudi royal family. But most of the 47 executed in the kingdom's biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago. Four, including Nimr, were Shi'ites accused of shooting policemen. The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading. In December, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for any execution of its members. Riyadh's main regional rival Iran and its Shi'ite allies immediately reacted with vigorous condemnation of the execution of Nimr, and Saudi police raised security in a district where the sect is a majority in case of protests, residents said. However, the executions seemed mostly aimed at discouraging Saudis from jihadism after bombings and shootings by Sunni militants in Saudi Arabia over the past year killed dozens and Islamic State called on followers there to stage attacks. Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family has grown increasingly nervous in recent years as turmoil across the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq, has empowered Sunni jihadist groups that seek to bring it down and given opportunities to Shi'ite Iran to spread its influence. The simultaneous execution of 47 people - 45 saudis, one Egytian and a man from Chad - was the biggest mass execution for security offences in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadist rebels who seized Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979. The 43 Sunni jihadists executed on Saturday included several prominent al Qaeda figures, including those convicted for attacks on Western compounds, government buildings and diplomatic missions that killed hundreds from 2003-06. The four Shi'ites were convicted of involvement in shootings and petrol bomb attacks that killed several police during anti-government protests from 2011-13 in which over 20 members of the minority sect were also shot dead by the authorities. Under Saudi Arabia's reading of Islamic Sharia, such attacks are interpreted as "banditry", which carries an automatic sentence of death followed by public display of bodies on gibbets. Justice Ministry spokesman Mansour Kafari said on television another four prisoners remained on death row for acts of terrorism. JIHADIST CRACKDOWN Most jihadist groups follow an extreme interpretation of the Salafi branch of Islam, the strict Sunni Muslim school that was developed in Saudi Arabia and is still followed by its clergy; but they have long regarded Riyadh as an enemy. Government-appointed clerics have for years denounced al Qaeda and Islamic State as religious "deviants", while the government has cracked down on jihadists at home, squeezed their funding streams abroad and stopped them travelling to fight. However, critics of the Al Saud ruling family say it has not done enough to tackle sectarian intolerance, hatred of infidels and praise for the principles of violent jihad propagated by Saudi clerics, which they see as contributing to militancy. Mustafa Alani, a security analyst close to the Interior Ministry, commented: "There is a huge popular pressure on the government to punish those people. It included all the leaders of al Qaeda, all the ones responsible for shedding blood. It sends a message." Analysts have speculated that the execution of the four Shi'ites was partly to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia's majority Sunni Muslims that the government did not differentiate between political violence committed by members of the two sects. But a top Iranian cleric said the kingdom's Al Saud ruling family would be "wiped from the pages of history", Yemen's Houthi group described Nimr as a "holy warrior" and Lebanese militia Hezbollah said Riyadh had made "a grave mistake". Saudi police increased security in Qatif district of Eastern Province, where the 2011-13 protests took place, residents said, and Bahrain police fired tear gas at several dozen people protesting against the execution of Nimr, a witness said. ANGRY ACTIVISTS Human rights groups have consistently attacked the kingdom's judicial process as unfair, pointing to accusations that confessions have been secured under torture and that defendents in court have been denied access to lawyers. Riyadh denies torture and says its judiciary is independent. Family members of the executed Shi'ites have vigorously denied they were involved in attacks and said they were only peaceful protesters against sectarian discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The three other executed Shi'ites were Ali al-Rubh, who relatives said was a juvenile at the time of the crime for which he was convicted, Mohammed al-Shayoukh and Mohammed Suwaymil. The cleric's brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any response in Qatif would be peaceful, but activists said new protests were possible. "My mobile is getting non-stop messages from friends, all shocked and angry. We know four of the names on the list. The fear is for the children among those detained," an activist in Qatif told Reuters. The Interior Ministry statement began with Koranic verses justifying the use of execution and state television showed footage of the aftermath of al Qaeda attacks in the last decade. Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just. The executions are Saudi Arabia's first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014. (Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi, Sam Wilkin, Noah Browning, Omar Fahmy and Katie Paul, editing by Ralph Boulton)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
- NBC Sports Boston
What can Celtics fans expect from new head coach Ime Udoka? This 2015 quote from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich should generate plenty of excitement.
- Yahoo Sports
Gordon has worked for Fox ever since he retired from the Cup Series. Now he'll be the No. 2 man at Hendrick behind Rick Hendrick.
- Good Housekeeping
We did not see this coming. 😔
A month out from the Tokyo Olympics, the US men's basketball roster is taking shape, and it once again looks like a juggernaut.
- Yahoo Canada Style
'It's a whole different face': Kylie Jenner fans react after viral TikTok compares old photos of the star
"She's literally not the same person."
- The Daily Beast
Screenshot/YouTubeA massive country music festival in Kentucky this past weekend started off on rocky footing: Police found meth, marijuana, and an open bottle of alcohol in the first vehicle they stopped at a traffic checkpoint. One of the people in the car had two active warrants out for their arrest.“We were like, ‘Well, this doesn’t bode well for the weekend,’” Edmonson County Sheriff Shane Doyle told the Lexington Herald-Leader.Police said that by the end of the five-day bash, dubbed the “R
Prince William and Kate Middleton reportedly refused to speak to Prince Harry after Prince Philip's funeral in case the conversation was leaked
The couple thought Meghan Markle might leak their conversation to Oprah Winfrey, the royal historian Robert Lacey said in an updated book.
The Suns took advantage of a little-known rule their star center wasn't even aware of to execute the game-winning 'Valley Oop'
Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk would be an offensive goaltend on any other play, but not off an inbounds play.
The former president claims he could be back in power soon.
- Business Insider
Trump's obsessive rants about the 2020 election have driven away his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, report says
Ivanka and Kushner have conspicuously stepped back from Trump's inner circle partly over Trump's obsession on the past, CNN reports.
- Kansas City Star
Chances are, you’ve never seen something like this at soccer game.
- NBC Sports BayArea
There are a lot of players the Warriors could select with their No. 7 and No. 14 picks on draft night. But who are some guys Golden State should stay away from?
- Golf Channel
Brooks Koepka said the origins of the Brooks-Bryson beef started when DeChambeau didn't stay true to his word.
On July 1 — what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday — a new statue of the late princess will be revealed at Kensington Palace, with her sons Prince William and Prince Harry there to honor the moment together despite their ongoing rift, widened by Harry’s confessions about the royal family on his TV […]
This video will live rent-free in my mind henceforth.
- NBC News
More Black people died in traffic deaths in 2020 than any other racial group even though Americans drove less in the pandemic. Experts say this is not new.
- NBC Sports BayArea
With the lottery results now official, let's examine five players the Warriors could target on July 29.
- The Telegraph
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex rejected the title Earl of Dumbarton for their son Archie because it contained the word "dumb", it has emerged. Multiple sources have told The Telegraph that both Harry and Meghan declined to use the title of Scottish nobility because they feared Archie might be bullied or attract unfortunate nicknames. The word dumb is more prevalent in the US, where is it frequently used as slang for stupid. A source said: “They didn’t like the idea of Archie being called the Ear
- Warriors Wire
At the 2021 NBA draft lottery, the Golden State Warriors officially landed the No. 7 and No. 14 overall picks on the draft board.
An Insider reporter thought Martha Stewart's recipes were the easiest meals she's ever made in a slow cooker.