WASHINGTON – Reports from Iran say the Saudi Arabian embassy has been attacked by protesters and set ablaze after Riyadh executed 47 people including a prominent Shia critic of the Saudi regime.
In addition, a Saudi consulate in Mashad was stormed by Iranian protesters and the Saudi flag was reportedly taken down.
The attacks Saturday, just hours after Saudi Arabia executed Nimr al-Nimr, a top Shi’ite cleric along with 46 others in 12 different cities. Some were killed by firing squad, while others were beheaded amid strong protests by the Iranian government.
Lebanon’s Supreme Islamic Shi’ite Council called Nimr’s execution a “grave mistake”, and the Hezbollah group termed it an assassination as Shi’ites took to the streets in protest from Tehran to Kashmir. Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province marched through Nimr’s home district of Qatif shouting “down with the Al Saud,” and several hundred gathered in nearby Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled island kingdom allied to Saudi Arabia.
In Iraq, former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki predicted that Nimr’s execution would lead to the downfall of the Saudi government.
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Most of the 47 executed were convicted of Al-Qaida attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago, but four, including prominent cleric Nimr, were Shi’ite Muslims accused of shooting policemen during anti-government protests in recent years.
In Tehran, protesters reportedly broke into the Saudi embassy after launching several Molotov cocktails into the building.
A Mehr news agency editor said on his Twitter that police used tear gas to scatter protesters. There are reports of fires breaking out and a gas explosion in the building.
The Iranian government said Saudi Arabia would pay a “high price” for the executions.
Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are major rivals in the Middle East and are arrayed on opposing sides in several regional conflicts.