Iranian Protesters Storm Saudi Embassy

Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy early Sunday morning, in response to Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the embassy, located in Tehran, to voice their anger at the execution of Nimr al-Nimr. The leader of a younger group of Shi’ites who called for equal rights in Saudi Arabia, al-Nimr was among 47 prisoners, including some members of al Queda, who were executed for terrorism charges.

Nimr al-Nimr

Nimr al-Nimr

The execution of al-Nimr prompted Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards to vow “harsh revenge” against the Saudi Sunni royal dynasty, which it dubbed a “pro-terrorist, anti-Islam regime.” The website of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, carried a picture of a Saudi executioner next to notorious Islamic State executioner ‘Jihadi John’, with the caption “Any differences?”.

As the protest outside the Saudi embassy grew, demonstrators were able to break into the building, destroying furniture and setting the place on fire. Police eventually drove the mob back. Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for calm and urging protesters to respect the diplomatic premises.

Prominent religious and political figures in neighboring Iraq, whose Shi’ite-led government is close to Iran, demanded that ties with Riyadh be severed. Former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki publicly condemned the execution, predicting it would lead to the eventual downfall of the “Saudi regime.”

Lebanon’s Shia council called the execution a “grave mistake” while the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah militant group described the execution as an “assassination”.

The U.S. State Department, German foreign ministry and E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini all warned that al-Nimr’s execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

Protests were also seen in Saudi Arabia itself, where hundreds of armored vehicles were sent to quash demonstrations in Qatif. Those protesting the execution in Bahrain were tear gassed by police. Clashes were also reported on Saturday in Yemen, Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir. Security forces in other Shia-populated areas are also said to be on high alert.

Mohammed al-Nimr, the brother of Nimr al-Nimr, has asked that any reaction to the execution be peaceful.

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