Saudi Arabia Executes 47, Including Top Shiite Cleric Nimr Al-Nimr

Mideast Saudi Arabia

The Middle East was braced for sectarian violence Saturday after Saudi Arabia said it had executed 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric responsible for anti-government protests in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring, NBC News reported.

There were warnings of a backlash against the ruling Al Saud family after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was named on list of prisoners carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 157 people in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to advocacy groups.

"Saudi Arabia's allies - including the US and UK - must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course," said Maya Foe, a spokeswoman for the rights group Reprieve, adding that 4 of the 47 executed were political prisoners.

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