Saudi Arabia executes 47, including Shiite cleric

2014 file photo shows a supporter holding a banner depicting Saudi Shiite leader Nimr Baqir al-Nimr outside the Saudi embassy in Yemen. YAHYA ARHAB / EPA

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Saudi Arabia says it has executed 47 prisoners, including Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

The cleric’s name was among a list of the 47 carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. It cited the Interior Ministry for the information. Saudi state television also reported the executions.

Al-Nimr was a central figure in Shiite protests that erupted in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring, and carrying out his execution may spark new unrest among the OPEC powerhouse’s Shiite minority.

Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

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