Saudi Arabia sets off regional firestorm after execution of dissident cleric

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Outraged protesters stormed Saudi Arabia's embassy in Iran on Saturday after the execution of a high-profile cleric.


Saudi Arabia announced Saturday that it had carried out a mass execution of 47 prisoners on terrorism charges. The New York Times said that it was one of the largest mass executions in Saudi Arabia for decades. The prisoners were killed by firing squad or by beheading.

Among those put to death was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. al-Nimr "was a prominent, outspoken cleric who articulated the feelings of those in Saudi Arabia's [Shiite] minority who feel marginalized and discriminated against," the BBC reported.


The fears that the killing of al-Nimr could spark regional tensions was quickly confirmed. Iran and Iraq, which both have majority Shiite populations, denounced the execution, and angry crowds broke into the Saudi embassy and set it on fire.


Saudi Arabia executed at least 157 people in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest levels in 20 years.

The United States, a staunch ally of Saudi Arabia, had what McClatchy's Hannah Allam described as a "muted" response to the executions.


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