Three Saudis beheaded in kingdom

A Saudi man smokes his last cigarette before being hanged for the murder of a compatriot just west of the capital Kuwait City, on April 1, 2013 (AFP Photo/Yasser al-Zayyat)

Riyadh (AFP) - A Saudi national who shot dead a member of the security forces was among three people beheaded in the kingdom on Thursday, the interior ministry said.

Authorities executed Fayez al-Atwi in Riyadh after his conviction for gunning down the security man while he was on duty, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Another Saudi, Abdullah al-Balawi, was beheaded for stabbing his father to death, the interior ministry said.

The third person executed was Abdullah al-Ruwaili, a Saudi found guilty of "smuggling a large amount of banned amphetamine pills," said the ministry.

Both Balawi and Ruwaili were executed in the northwestern city of Tabuk.

The three cases bring to 72 the number of death sentences carried out this year, compared with 87 for all of 2014, according to an AFP tally.

Amnesty International has criticised a "macabre spike" in the use of the death penalty this year in Saudi Arabia, which the London-based watchdog ranked among the world's top three executioners of 2014.

Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment.