Al-Qaida has warned Saudi Arabia that it will pay for the execution of dozens of its members. Though it was the killing of a Shiite cleric in the Jan. 2 mass execution that sparked a crisis between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival, Iran, most of the 47 executed were al-Qaida terrorists convicted of bombings and gun attacks in the kingdom.
In a statement dated Jan. 10, al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch and its North African wing said Riyadh had gone ahead with the executions despite a warning not to do so. Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch threatened in December to “shed the blood of the soldiers of Al-Saud” if its members were executed.
Last week after the executions, Islamic State, a Sunni rival of al-Qaida, threatened to destroy Saudi Arabian prisons holding terrorists. Both organizations are fighting against Saudi Arabia, which has declared them terrorist groups and locked up thousands of their supporters.
Though it was the executions of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric and three other Shiite Muslims that drove up sectarian tension with Shiite power Iran, analysts say they were meant mostly to send a signal to terrorist Sunnis. These analysts suggest Saudi Arabia was aiming to crush support for Sunni jihadists active in the kingdom without alienating more moderate Sunnis.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in Saudi Arabia since Nov. 2014 that have killed more than 50 people, most of them Shiites but also more than 15 members of the security forces.