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Top Iraq Cleric Says Saudi Executions An ‘Aggression’

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” over its execution of a top Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran Saturday after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric, Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, and 46 other people in a single day, which is likely to heighten sectarian tensions in the conflict-ridden Middle East.

But Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has insisted that Nimr did not encourage people to join an armed movement, nor did he engage in secret plotting, but only voiced public criticisms based on religious fervour.

Some protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the embassy, setting off a fire in part of the building, Iran’s top police official, General Hossein Sajedinia, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency early Sunday.

Iranian authorities have also provided protection to a Saudi citizen wanted over the Al Khobar explosions by the so-called Hezbollah Al Hijaz in 1996 and the culprit was arrested past year carrying an Iranian passport, the source said.

It is feared that the death of the outspoken cleric will exacerbate tensions in the region, with activists calling for further protests in Bahrain, and several demonstrations breaking out in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Shiite leaders in Iran and other countries across the Middle East swiftly condemned Riyadh and warned of a sectarian backlash.

Some were beheaded, and others were shot by firing squad, said the ministry.

The last time Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution on this scale was in 1980, when the kingdom executed 63 people convicted over the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that Iranian diplomatic personnel had 48 hours to leave the country and all Saudi diplomatic personnel in Iran were being recalled home.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been vying for leadership in the Muslim world since Iran’s 1979 revolution, which elevated hard-line Shi’ite clerics to power.

He further called on the Interior Ministry to cooperate with the Judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry to identify perpetrators of Saturday night’s protests at the Saudi embassy and consulate and bring them to justice.

In an apparent swipe at Saudi Arabia’s western allies, Mr Khamenei criticised “the silence of the supposed backers of freedom, democracy and human rights” over the execution. Nimr (56) was among a group of 47 convicts executed on Saturday on charges of supporting terrorism. “The spilling of their pure blood – including of the late cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, may his soul rest in piece – is an injustice and an aggression”.

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