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Wed Jun 29 23:44:10 SAST 2016

Saudis 'face God's wrath'

Reuters, AFP | 04 January, 2016 00:06
The 56-year-old cleric was put to death along with 46 Shia activists and Sunnis whom the Saudi interior ministry said were involved in al-Qaeda killings. Some were beheaded and others were killed by firing squad. File photo
Image by: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS

Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Teheran yesterday and Iran's top leader predicted "divine vengeance" for Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shia cleric at the weekend.

Demonstrators protesting against cleric Nimr al-Nimr's execution broke into the embassy, smashed furniture and started fires before being ejected by the police.

The 56-year-old cleric was put to death along with 46 Shia activists and Sunnis whom the Saudi interior ministry said were involved in al-Qaeda killings. Some were beheaded and others were killed by firing squad.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani condemned the execution as "inhuman" but also called for the prosecution of "extremist individuals" for attacking the embassy and consulate in Mashhad.

State media reported Teheran's police chief as saying that an unspecified number of "unruly elements" were arrested for attacking the embassy with petrol bombs and rocks. A prosecutor said 40 people were held.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticising Saudi Arabia for a second day over al-Nimr's execution, said politicians in the Sunni kingdom would face "divine retribution" for his death.

"The unjustly spilled blood of this oppressed martyr will no doubt soon show its effect and divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians," the ayatollah said on state TV.

Al-Nimr was considered a terrorist by Riyadh but hailed in Iran as a champion of the rights of Saudi Arabia's marginalised Shia minority.

Although most of the 47 men killed in the kingdom's biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda attacks, it was al-Nimr and three other Shia, all accused of shooting policemen, who attracted the most attention.

The executions appeared to end hopes that a common enemy in the form of Islamic State would produce some rapprochement between the region's leading Sunni and Shia powers.

In Iraq, the Shia-led government of which is close to Iran, there were demands that ties with Riyadh be severed.

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