January 14, 2016 / 5:07 AM / 3 years ago

Al Qaeda head calls for attacks over Saudi executions

RIYADH (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s leader in an audio recording on Tuesday called for attacks against Saudi Arabia and its Western allies in retaliation for its execution of 43 convicted members of the organization, U.S.-based monitoring group SITE said on Thursday.

The Islamist militant group’s global branch warned on Monday that Saudi Arabia would pay for the killings, alongside those of four Shi’ite Muslims including a prominent cleric whose deaths raised regional tensions.

The statement by Ayman al-Zawahri, who has the allegiance of al Qaeda branches across the region, urged Saudis to overthrow the Al Saud ruling dynasty and the movement’s followers elsewhere to damage the kingdom by attacking its Western allies.

“Is it not time for you to get rid of this rotten regime that corrupted your religion and your worldly life?” he said, addressing Saudi. “The best revenge for your brothers is through inflicting the Zionist-Crusader alliance,” he added, addressing militants elsewhere.

The 43 militants executed in Saudi Arabia had been convicted of participating in attacks staged by al Qaeda in the kingdom from 2003-06 that killed hundreds of local people and foreigners.

Saudi analysts said the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr and three other Shi’ites alongside the al Qaeda members, after their convictions for police shootings, was a message to majority Sunnis that Riyadh would punish attacks by both sects.

Zawahri said Nimr’s execution was a ploy by Riyadh to win support among Middle East Sunnis against Iran.

“His killing is one of the manifestations of the Saudi-Iranian competition for power in the region, but under the umbrella of protecting and complying with the interests of America,” he said.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Ryan Woo

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