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Saudi Arabia

A Saudi intelligence officer ordered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and not Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has concluded.

The intelligence officer was tasked with persuading Jamal Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, a spokesman said.

Jamal Khashoggi was given a lethal injection after a struggle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, he added.

The Gulf kingdom’s public prosecutor has charged 11 people over the murder and is seeking the death penalty for five of them.

Their cases have been referred to a court while investigations into another 10 people suspected of involvement continue.

Meanwhile, the US treasury department imposed economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials who it said had “targeted and brutally killed” Jamal Khashoggi, who lived and worked in the US, and had to “face consequences for their actions”.

They included Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who the treasury department alleged was “part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder; Maher Mutreb, who it said had “coordinated and executed” the operation; and Mohammed Alotaibi, the Istanbul consul-general.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the sanctions were “an important step in responding to Khashoggi’s killing” and vowed to “continue to seek all relevant facts, consult Congress, and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved”.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Canada Confirms It Heard Murder Tape

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Turkey Shared Murder Tapes With Key Foreign Nations

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Saudi Arabia Admits Journalist Was Murdered

Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight, Saudi Arabia Says

At a news conference in Riyadh on November 15, Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaan said Jamal Khashoggi’s body was dismembered inside the consulate after his death.

The body parts were then handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the grounds, he added. A composite sketch of the collaborator has been produced and investigations are continuing to locate the remains.


The prosecutor did not identify any of those charged with the murder.

However, Shalaan bin Rajih Shalaane said investigations had “revealed that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiations team” sent to Istanbul by deputy intelligence chief Gen Ahmed al-Assiri to force Jamal Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia from his self-imposed exile.

“[The crown prince] did not have any knowledge about it,” the prosecutor insisted.

Crown Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, has denied any role in what he has called a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”.

However, critics believe it is highly unlikely the crown prince would not have been aware of the operation.

Several of the 21 people arrested over the murder have been seen in his security detail in the past. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani have also been sacked over the incident.

The prosecutor said Saud al-Qahtani had been banned from travelling and remained under investigation, but he did not say what had happened to Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said “the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government” but that he does not believe King Salman gave it.

On November 15, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some of the statements by the Saudi deputy public prosecutor were “unsatisfactory”.

Turkish officials have alleged that the 15 Saudi agents who flew to Istanbul in the hours before the murder, one of whom is believed to have been a forensic pathologist working for the Saudi interior ministry, were carrying a bone saw.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has confirmed that his country’s intelligence has heard an audio recording of the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He said: “Canada has been fully briefed up on what Turkey had to share.”

PM Trudeau is the first Western leader to confirm his country has listened to the purported tape of the murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

On November 10, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he had given copies to the US, UK, Germany, France and Saudi Arabia.

“We gave them the tapes,” he told reporters before flying to Paris for a gathering of world leaders commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

“They’ve also listened to the conversations, they know it.”

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Turkey Shared Murder Tapes With Key Foreign Nations

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Saudi Arabia Admits Journalist Was Murdered

Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight, Saudi Arabia Says

However, the US has not said whether it has received a tape and France’s foreign minister has said it is not in possession of one as far as he is aware.

Saudi Arabia has admitted a team of agents murdered Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic who was living in self-imposed exile in the US and writing for the Washington Post, and it has arrested 18 people allegedly involved.

At a news conference in Paris on November 12, PM Justin Trudeau said Canadian intelligence agencies had been working very closely with Turkey on the murder investigation.

He added: “I had a conversation with Erdogan a couple of weeks ago over the phone. Here in Paris we had brief exchanges and I thanked him for his strength in responding to the Khashoggi situation.”

When asked whether Canada had heard the purported audio recordings, PM Trudeau said “yes”. But he added that he had not listened to them personally.

According to recent reports, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy service, travelled to Turkey to discuss the investigation and listened to the recording.

The director then briefed PM Trudeau and other Canadian officials on his visit to Turkey.

Justin Trudeau sidestepped a question about whether such evidence would have consequences for Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“We are in discussions with our like-minded allies as to the next steps with regard Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Justin Trudeau has faced calls to cancel a $13 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia for tanks and armored fighting vehicles built by an Ontario-based unit of the American firm General Dynamics.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada are already strained. In August, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of violating its sovereignty and froze new trade after Canadian officials called for the release of detained civil society and women’s rights activists.

On November 12, Turkey reacted angrily after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian contradicted President Erdogan’s assertion that France had received an audio recording from the consulate and accused the Turkish leader of playing “political games”.

Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 2 television: “The truth isn’t out yet. We want to know the truth, the circumstances of his death and the identity of the culprits. Then we will take the necessary actions.

“If the Turkish president has information to give us, he must give it to us. For now, I don’t know about it.”

Asked if that meant President Erdogan was lying, the foreign minister replied: “It means that he has a political game to play in these circumstances.”

The Turkish presidency’s communications director called the comments “unacceptable” and insisted a representative of French intelligence had listened to the tape on October 24.

Fahrettin Altun told AFP: “If there is miscommunication between the French government’s various agencies, it is up to the French authorities – not Turkey – to take care of that problem.”

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Turkey has shared recordings related to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and others.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his assertion that Saudi Arabia knew who had killed Jamal Khashoggi.

Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi rulers, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Saudi Arabia has admitted the journalist was murdered there, but denied suggestions its royal family was involved.

The Saudis had initially maintained Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed.

They have also denied comments allegedly made by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman describing Jamal Khashoggi as a dangerous Islamist.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Saudi Arabia Admits Journalist Was Murdered

Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight, Saudi Arabia Says

Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance: President Trump Suggests Rogue Killers to Blame

The reported phone call to the White House came before Saudi Arabia admitted Jamal Khashoggi had been killed.

There is still no consensus on how Jamal Khashoggi died. The journalist entered the consulate to sort out documents for his marriage.

Initially, Turkish media had quoted sources as saying Turkey had audio recordings proving that Jamal Khashoggi had been tortured before being murdered.

Last week, however, Turkey said he had been strangled immediately after entering the consulate and Jamal Kashoggi’s body dismembered “in accordance with plans made in advance”.

Nobody has been found and a Turkish official said the body had been dissolved.

Saudi Arabia has changed its account of what happened to the journalist.

When Jamal Khashoggi first disappeared, Saudi Arabia said the journalist had walked out of the building alive. Saudi Arabia later admitted he had been murdered, saying the killing was premeditated and a result of a “rogue operation”.

Eighteen suspects have been arrested in Saudi Arabia, where will be prosecuted. However, Turkey wants the suspects to be extradited.

Turkey has not publicly blamed Saudi Arabia for the killing.

President Erdogan said in a TV speech on November 10: “We gave the recordings, we gave them to Saudi Arabia, we gave them to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the English.”

“They listened to the conversations which took place here, they know,” he said.

No other country has admitted hearing the said recording.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Saudi Arabia has admitted journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and blamed his killing on a “rogue operation”, giving a new account of an act that sparked a global outcry.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News “the murder” had been a “tremendous mistake” and denied the powerful crown prince had ordered it.

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Saudi government, under intense pressure to explain Jamal Khashoggi’s whereabouts, has offered conflicting accounts.

They initially said Jamal Khashoggi had left the consulate on October 2 – but on October 19 admitted for the first time he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fight. This claim met widespread skepticism.

Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight, Saudi Arabia Says

Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance: President Trump Suggests Rogue Killers to Blame

Jamal Khashoggi: Secretary Mike Pompeo Meets King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh

Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance: Turkish Officials Have Evidence Proving Saudi Murder

Turkish officials believe the journalist, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents inside the building and say they have evidence to prove it.

Adel al-Jubeir’s comments, describing the incident as murder, are some of the most direct to come from a Saudi official.

He said: “We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder.”

“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority,” he added.

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”

Adel al-Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia did not know where the body was and insisted the action had not been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen as the country’s most powerful figure.

“Even the senior leadership of our intelligence service was not aware of this,” he said, calling it a “rogue operation”.

However, Yeni Safak, a media outlet close to Turkey’s government, says it has information showing that the office of the crown prince received four phone calls from the consulate after the killing.

On October 21, Reuters reported it had spoken to a Saudi official who said Jamal Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to dispose of.

A Saudi operative then reportedly donned Jamal Khashoggi’s clothes and left the consulate.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia amid an escalating crisis between the kingdom and Lebanon.

The president’s trip comes days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned while in Riyadh, saying he feared for his life.

Meanwhile, foes Saudi Arabia and Iran have accused each other of fuelling instability in Lebanon and the wider region.

Emmanuel Macron and Saudi officials also discussed the crisis in Yemen, where Riyadh is leading a war against rebels.

France has historical ties with Lebanon, as its former colonial power before it gained independence during World War Two.

President Macron was in the UAE on November 9 to open the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a spin-off of the famous Paris art museum.

Ahead of his two-hour visit to Riyadh, Emmanuel Macron said all Lebanese officials should live freely, “which means having a very demanding stance on those who could threaten any leader”.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Yemen Ballistic Missile near Riyadh Airport

Saudi Arabia $100 Billion Scandal: Over 200 People Detained in Anti-Corruption Purge

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

No details of the alleged plot against Saad al-Hariri have been made public.

Uncertainty surrounds Saad al-Hariri’s circumstances, amid rumors he was being held in Riyadh.

President Macron said on November 9 he had had informal contact with Saad al-Hariri, without giving details, while the French foreign minister said France believed Saad al-Hariri was able to move freely.

On November 5, Saad al-Hariri said in a TV broadcast that he was resigning because of the unspecified threat to his life.

In the video statement, Saad al-Hariri also attacked Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily powerful in Lebanon, and Iran.

There are fears Lebanon could become embroiled in a wider regional confrontation between major Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran.

President Macron is a keen supporter of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which both the Saudis and the Trump administration have heavily criticized.

Before going to Saudi Arabia, Emmanuel Macron said that he had heard “very harsh opinions” on Iran from Saudi Arabia, which did not match his own view.

“It is important to speak with everyone,” the president added.

However, an official communiqué from his office following the visit did not say Iran was among the matters discussed, Le Monde reported.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Lebanon have soared since Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation.

On November 9, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately. The move came after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “direct military aggression”, saying it supplied a missile which it says was fired by Hezbollah at Riyadh from Yemen on November 5.

Iran has dismissed Saudi Arabia’s allegations as “false and dangerous”.

According to new reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of an act of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

This “may be considered an act of war”, Saudi Arabia state media quoted the crown prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a phone conversation.

On November 4, a ballistic missile was intercepted near Riyadh.

Iran has denied arming the Houthi movement, which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government.

On November 6, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Saudi Arabia’s “wars of aggression” and “regional bullying” were threatening the Middle East.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Yemen Ballistic Missile near Riyadh Airport

Saudi Arabia: 11 Princes, 4 Sitting Ministers and Dozens of Former Ministers Detained on Corruption

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin of Saudi Arabia Killed in Helicopter Crash

Houthi-aligned media reported that the rebels had fired a Burkan H2 ballistic missile at King Khaled International Airport, which is about 530 miles from the Yemeni border and 7 miles north-east of Riyadh, on November 4.

Saudi media reported that missile defenses intercepted the missile in flight, but that some missile fragments fell inside the airport area. No casualties were reported.

Human Rights Watch said the launch of an indiscriminate missile at a predominantly civilian airport was an apparent war crime.

On November 7, the official Saudi Press Agency (SAP) reported that in his telephone call with Prince Mohammed, Boris Johnson had “expressed his condemnation of launching a ballistic missile by Houthi coup militias” and affirmed “Britain’s stand with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in confronting security threats”.

“For his part, the crown prince stressed that the involvement of the Iranian regime in supplying its Houthi militias with missiles is considered a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime and may be considered an act of war against the kingdom,” it added.

On November 6, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an Iranian proxy, was also involved.

“It was an Iranian missile launched by Hezbollah from territory occupied by the Houthis in Yemen,” he said.

Iran has rejected “unfounded accusations” by Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister citing Tehran’s “grip” on his country and threats to his life.

It says the surprise resignation of Lebanese prime minister is part of a plot to stoke tensions in the region.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of being behind the move.

Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation in a TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran of sowing “fear and destruction” in several countries, including Lebanon.

He said he was stepping down because he feared for his life.

Saad al-Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Image source Wikimedia

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

Iran: Shootings at Parliament Building and Ayatollah Khomeini Shrine

Iran Nuclear Deal: US Imposes Fresh Sanctions over Ballistic Missile Test

Correspondents say Saad al-Hariri’s sudden departure plunges Lebanon into a new political crisis and raises fears that it may be at the forefront of the regional rivalry between Shia power Iran and Sunni stronghold Saudi Arabia.

Following the statement on November 4, Iranian politicians lined up to denounce Saad al-Hariri’s assertions.

Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei, said: “Hariri’s resignation was done with planning by [President] Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi, quoted by the official Irna news agency, said Saad al-Hariri’s departure was aimed at creating tension in Lebanon and the region.

Bahram Qasemi said Saad al-Hariri had repeated “unrealistic and unfounded accusations” and had aligned himself with “those who want ill for the region”, singling out Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US.

Saad al-Hariri, whose family is close to Saudi Arabia, has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

His father, Rafik al-Hariri was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on November 4.

According to officials, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, the missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The Saudi civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past, though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, said: “The missile was launched indiscriminately to target the civilian and populated areas.

“Shattered fragments from the intercepted missile landed in an uninhabited area of the airport and there were no injuries.”

Witnesses reported seeing parts of the missile in the airport’s car park, Al-Arabiya reported.

Residents in the north of Riyadh said their windows were rattled by a loud blast that was followed by the roar of low-flying aircraft.

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Arabia: 11 Princes, 4 Sitting Ministers and Dozens of Former Ministers Detained on Corruption

Lebanon: PM Saad al-Hariri Resigns Fearing for His Life

Oil prices surge after Saudi Arabia and allies launch air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen

The Houthi-run Saba News in Yemen said the missile had been a Burkan H2.

The rebel group is believed to have access to a stockpile of Scud ballistic missiles and home-grown variants. Saudi forces have previously brought them down with Patriot surface-to-air missiles bought from the US.

In May, a day before President Donald Trump was due to arrive in Riyadh for a visit, the Houthis fired a missile towards the city, but it was shot down 120 miles from the capital.

Yemen has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

Saudi Arabia is leading a campaign to defeat the Houthis, and is the biggest power in an international air coalition that has bombed the rebel group since 2015.

On November 1, a suspected strike by the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 26 people at a hotel and market in northern Yemen, medics and local officials said.

The coalition, which rights groups say has bombed schools, hospitals, markets and residential areas, said it struck a “legitimate military target”.

Eleven Saudi princes, four sitting ministers and dozens of former ministers have been detained by Saudi Arabia’s new anticorruption body, local media reports say.

Those detained were not named and it is not clear what they are suspected of.

However, local broadcaster Al-Arabiya said fresh investigations had been launched into the 2009 Jeddah floods and the outbreak of the MERS virus which emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The detentions came hours after the new anti-corruption committee was formed.

The anti-corruption committee is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has the power to issue arrest warrants and travel bans, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Image source Wikimedia

King Salaman of Saudi Arabia Replaces Crown Prince

Donald Trump to Deliver Speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir of Saudi Arabia Executed for Murder

Separately, the heads of the Saudi National Guard and the navy were replaced in a series of high-profile sackings.

According to SPA, King Salman had dismissed National Guard minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and navy commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

No official explanation was given for their removal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently said the return of “moderate Islam” was key to his plans to modernize Saudi Arabia.

Addressing an economic conference in Riyadh, the crown prince vowed to “eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon”.

In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a wide-ranging plan to bring social and economic change to Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon’s PM Saad al-Hariri has announced his resignation in a TV broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

Saad al-Hariri also said that he feared for his life, while fiercely criticizing Iran.

He accused Iran of sowing “fear and destruction” in several countries, including Lebanon.

Saad al-Hariri’s father, former PM Rafik al-Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

The Hariri family is close to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional competitor.

Saad al- Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016, after previously holding the position between 2009 and 2011.

“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri,” he said in the broadcast from Riyadh.

“I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.”

Image source Wikimedia

Saudi Prince Charged with Drug Smuggling in Lebanon

Lebanon Protests: Thousands of You Stink Activists Attend Rubbish Rally in Beirut

Lebanon restricts entry for Syrian refugees

Saad al-Hariri also attacked the Iran-backed Shia movement Hezbollah, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.

Addressing “Iran and its followers”, the prime minister said Lebanon would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it”.

Iran said the resignation would create regional tensions and rejected Saad al-Hariri’s accusations as “unfounded”.

Saad al-Hariri has made several visits in the past few days to Saudi Arabia, whose leadership is strongly opposed to Iran.

His announcement came a day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmenei.

Taking up the prime minister’s office in 2016, Saad al- Hariri promised a “new era for Lebanon” after two years of political deadlock.

The coalition government Saad al-Hariri led brought together almost all of the main political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah.

His father, Rafik al-Hariri, was killed by a bomb in 2005 in an attack widely blamed on Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf countries have extended the deadline for Qatar to accept a list of demands by 48 hours, or face further sanctions.

The initial deadline for Qatar to agree to the group’s 13 demands, including the shutting down of the Al Jazeera news network, expired on July 2.

Qatar, which denies funding extremism, has given a formal response, but details have not been released.

The Gulf country has already called the demands an “affront to international law”.

The requirements include the closure of a Turkish military base in Qatar and the curbing of diplomatic relations with Iran.

Qatar Rejects List of Conditions for Lifting Sanctions

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani was in Kuwait on July 3 to hand over a formal response in the form of a letter from the emir of Qatar to the emir of Kuwait, the main mediator in the Gulf crisis.

Image source Wikimedia

In a statement released shortly beforehand, lawyers for Qatar denounced the demands and called for international condemnation.

They said the tactics were “reminiscent of the extreme and punitive conduct of <<bully>> states that have historically resulted in war.

“The world must unite immediately to halt the singling out of Qatar for unjustified collective punishment and humiliation and to preserve peace, security and prosperity in the region.”

Qatar Airways’ License Revoked by Saudi Arabia’s Aviation Authority

Qatar has been under unprecedented diplomatic and economic sanctions for weeks from Saudi Arabia and its allies, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

The four Gulf countries, whose foreign ministers will meet on July 5 to discuss the situation, have accused Qatar of harboring Islamist groups that they consider terrorist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood – and giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera satellite channel, which is funded by the Qatari state. Doha denies the accusations.

Five Gulf Countries Cut Diplomatic Ties with Qatar

The imposed restrictions have caused turmoil in Qatar, an oil- and gas-rich nation dependent on imports to meet the basic needs of its population of 2.7 million. As a result, Iran and Turkey have been increasingly supplying it with food and other goods.

An unnamed official from one of the four countries told Reuters that Qatar was also being asked to sever links with so-called Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah.

The demands have not been officially unveiled. Their publication has increased the friction between the two sides.

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Oil price has surged after reports that OPEC members have agreed some details of a production cut.

Oil prices rose nearly 7% as energy ministers attended November 30 OPEC meeting in Vienna.

Ahead of the meeting Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih had said “there are good chances” a formal deal could be struck.

Two months ago, oil ministers had said full details of the agreement would be finalized at the meeting.

OPEC pledged to limit production by about 700,000 barrels a day, but said Iran would be allowed to increase production.

Oil prices rose then, but the absence of detail prompted some traders to have second thoughts about whether the cartel would actually take firm action.Oil prices fall below 28

Saudi Arabia has agreed to cut output by about 500,000 barrels per day at the meeting, Reuters reported.

That would take its output to 10.06 million barrels per day.

Reuters also reported that OPEC has agreed to suspend Indonesia’s membership to allow Iran to set new production levels at 3.797 million barrels per day.

Ahead of November 30meeting, Khalid Al-Falih said “there are good chances” that a detailed deal can be brokered, and that “the spirit is good”.

The Saudi energy minister said his country would have to “take a big cut and a big hit” to current production – and its 2017 forecast – if OPEC production were limited to 32.5 million barrels per day.

“So we will not do it unless we make sure that there is consensus,” Khalid Al-Falih added.

A production freeze for Iran at pre-sanctions levels would be “very considerate of other OPEC members when they’re having to cut,” he said.

“Iran has recovered to its pre-sanctions levels,” Khalid Al-Falih said.

Saudi Arabia has also been discussing a production cut with Russia, he added.

Brent crude rose 6.9% to $50.58 per barrel, while US crude also rose 6.7% to $48.25.

Traders said markets were jittery and prices could swing sharply in either direction depending on developments in Vienna.

A decision to cut has been hindered by a rivalry between Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top producer, and Iran.

The Saudis have been hesitant to shoulder the lion’s share of a cut, while Iran has resisted reducing its own production, arguing it has yet to recover its output levels after years of sanctions.

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir of Saudi Arabia has been executed for shooting dead a man during a brawl three years ago in the capital Riyadh, the interior ministry has said.

The prince was put to death in the capital. No details were given as to how he was executed, but most condemned people are beheaded.

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir is the 134th person to be put to death this year, according to a list compiled by the AFP news agency.

It is rare for royal family members to be executed, correspondents say.

Image source Flickr

Image source Flickr

Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir had pleaded guilty to shooting his compatriot, the interior ministry statement said.

Announcing the execution, the ministry said it would assure everyone the government was “keen to preserve security and achieve justice”.

The victim’s family refused offers of “blood money” by which they would receive financial compensation in return for not demanding the death sentence, Al-Arabiya reported.

One of the most well-known cases of a Saudi royal being executed was that of Faisal bin Musaid al Saud, who assassinated his uncle, King Faisal, in 1975.

Most people executed in Saudi Arabia are convicted for murder and drug trafficking although nearly 50 people were put to death for “terrorism” on a single day in January including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Saudi Arabia is concerned that 9/11 relatives will be able to sue the kingdom for damages, the foreign ministry says.

On September 28, the Congress voted for a law allowing families of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks to sue.

In doing so they overrode a veto by President Barack Obama, who said it would set a “dangerous precedent”.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers that day were Saudi nationals, but Saudi Arabia has denied any role in the attacks.

In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said: “The erosion of sovereign immunity will have a negative impact on all nations, including the United States.”

9/11 commemoration ceremony 2011: a minute of silence was held at 8:46 a.m. to mark the instant the first plane went into the North Tower

Their argument parallels the one made by Barack Obama.

The president said on CNN after the vote that the law set a “dangerous precedent” and could lead to the US being opened to “a situation where we’re suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we’re doing all around the world and suddenly finding ourselves subject to private lawsuits”.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Republican Party in Congress have said they want to reconsider the law. The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell admitted that lawmakers had not understood the possible consequences of the legislation.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody really had focused on the downside in terms of our international relationships,” he said.

The White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “a pretty classic case of rapid onset buyer’s remorse”.

On CNN, Barack Obama also suggested that that voting patterns in Congress were influenced by political concerns.

“If you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take,” he said.

“But it would have been the right thing to do.”

Saudi Arabia, the US key ally in the Middle East, had lobbied furiously against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (Jasta) legislation.

It has stopped short of specifying how it might retaliate but has called on Congress to reverse the decision.

Relatives of those killed in 9/11 have welcomed the bill’s passing.

“We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks,” said Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.

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Oil price has climbed by about 3% after Russia and Saudi Arabia reached an agreement to look for ways to stabilize the oil market.

The announcement was made by energy ministers Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih.

The price of Brent crude oil rose by $1.28 on the news to $48.11 a barrel.

A statement said the plan was to support the “stability of the oil market… ensuring a stable level of investment in the long term.”

The start of 2016 saw the price of oil fell to its lowest level in nearly 13 years due to a production glut and is still far below the $110 a barrel price recorded just two years ago.Oil prices fall below 28

Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said the agreement, which might include attempts to limit oil output, was a “historical moment” between members of OPEC, which is the traditional oil producers’ cartel, and non-members, of which Russia is one.

He said that Russia was willing to join an oil output “freeze”.

His Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih told Al Arabiya TV: “Freezing [production levels] is one of the preferred possibilities but it’s not necessary today.

“The market is getting better and we have noticed that prices reflect this [improvement].”

Strategies to keep prices high by limiting production are usually the preserve of OPEC and are often not successful.

However, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the world’s two largest oil producers.

Alexander Novak and Khalid al-Falih will meet again later this month and again in October and November.

The outline agreement, to set up a joint task force, was publicized at a news conference at the G20 summit taking place in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The agreement to talk about a deal, despite the lack of detail, was welcomed by two other oil producers.

Kuwait’s acting oil minister Anas al-Saleh: “This dialogue confirms that the main oil producers are watching the oil market… to help achieve stability.”

UAE’s energy minister Suhail al-Mazroui tweeted: “UAE, as an active and responsible member of OPEC will always support any joint efforts which will benefit market stability.”

Three suicide attacks hit Saudi Arabia on July 4, including one near Islam’s second holiest site.

Four guards were killed near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, while only the bombers died in Jeddah and Qatif.

No group has yet said it was behind the attacks, but suspicion has fallen on ISIS.

The Sunni Muslim jihadist group has called for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy and its supporters have previously carried out bombings in the Gulf state, targeting the Shia minority community and security forces.

ISIS has also claimed a series of deadly attacks in the predominantly Muslim countries of Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq during the holy month of Ramadan.

In July 4 first bombing, two security officers were wounded when a man detonated an explosive vest he was wearing near the US consulate in the coastal city of Jeddah shortly after midnight.

An interior ministry spokesman identified the assailant as a 35-year-old Pakistani expat called Abdullah Qalzar Khan, who it said had worked as a private driver in Jeddah for 12 years.

The second attack took place near dusk outside a Shia mosque in the mainly Shia eastern city of Qatif.

A resident told the Reuters news agency that there were believed to be no casualties apart from the bomber, as worshippers had already left to break their daylight Ramadan fasts.

However, the interior ministry spokesman said the remains of three people had been found and were being identified, without providing any details.Medina suicide attacks July 2016

Not long afterwards, another bomber struck near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, where thousands of worshippers had gathered for the Maghrib prayers.

On July 5, the Senior Council of Ulema issued a statement saying those behind the three attacks, whom it described as “renegades”, “have no respect for any sanctity and they have no religion or conscience”.

The head of the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s main advisory body, said the attack was “unprecedented”.

The Grand Sheikh of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the leading religious institute in the Sunni Muslim world, also stressed “the sanctity of the houses of God, especially the Prophet’s Mosque”.

The foreign minister of Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival,tweeted: “There are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross. Sunnis, Shiites will both remain victims unless we stand united as one. #Medina.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Interior Minister, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, meanwhile sought to reassure his fellow citizens, saying: “The security of the homeland is good, it is at its highest levels and thanks be to God it gets stronger every day.”

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the prince made the statement while visiting the security officers wounded in the Jeddah bombing.

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A secret congressional report into the 9/11 attacks will clear Saudi Arabia of any responsibility if it will be published, CIA chief John Brennan has said.

Keeping 28 pages of the report secret has sparked speculation that the attack had received official Saudi support.

The documents are also central to a dispute over whether the families of 9/11 victims should be able to sue the Saudi government.

However, Saudi Arabia denies any involvement.

Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens.

America is remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks in a series of memorials marking the 12th anniversary

America is remembering the victims of the 9-11 attacks in a series of memorials marking the 12th anniversary

Former senator Bob Graham, who headed the Senate intelligence committee that compiled the classified report in 2002, has said that Saudi officials did provide assistance to the 9/11 hijackers.

However, John Brennan said this was not the case.

In an interview with Saudi-owned Arabiya TV, he said: “So these 28 pages I believe are going to come out and I think it’s good that they come out. People shouldn’t take them as evidence of Saudi complicity in the attacks.”

John Brennan also described the 28-page section of the 2002 report as merely a “preliminary review”.

“The 9/11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement… their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually had supported the 9/11 attacks,” he said.

Last month, a bill to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia over the attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died, was passed by the Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has warned that the move could cause his government to withdraw US investments.

Bob Graham has said that the White House would decide whether to release the classified pages this month.

A bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Egypt will be built over the Red Sea, King Salman has announced.

In a statement, King Salman of Saudi Arabia says the bridge would boost commerce between the two allies.

The royal made the announcement on April 8 during the second day of his visit to Cairo.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have supported Egypt with billions of dollars since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2013 following mass street protests.

Saudi Arabia regards Egypt as a crucial partner in efforts to build a bloc of friendly Sunni Muslim states as a bulwark against growing regional influence of Shia-led Iran.

King Salman’s visit comes amid recent strains in the relationship, with Abdul Fattah al-Sisi taking a less hard-line stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Riyadh seeking more support from Cairo for its war against rebels in Yemen.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the bridge would be named after the Saudi king.

“I agreed with my brother his Excellency President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to build a bridge connecting the two countries” King Salman said.

“This historic step to connect the two continents, Africa and Asia, is a qualitative transformation that will increase trade between the two continents to unprecedented levels” he added.

President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said it marked “a new chapter on the road of Arab joint action”.

A Red Sea bridge linking Saudi Arabia and Egypt has been proposed several times before but has failed to become a reality.

Previous estimates for the bridge project suggested a cost of around $3-4 billion, but no further information has yet been released for the latest plan.

King Salman is currently on a five-day visit to Egypt, where he is expected to announce more trade and co-operation agreements.

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Oil prices have plunged after Saudi Arabia said it would freeze production only if other major producers did the same.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s remarks are seen as a challenge to Iran.

It has vowed to increase oil production following the lifting of Western sanctions.

In the Bloomberg interview, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also spoke about his plan for a giant public investment fund.

Worth more than $2 trillion, it would be designed to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on income from oil.Prince Mohammed bin Slaman oil prices comment

Part of the plan would be a sale of shares in the state-owned oil company Aramco, which could start as soon as next year, according to the interview.

Iran will not take part in a conference in Doha on April 17, where the freezing of oil output is due to be discussed.

“If all countries agree to freeze production, we will be among them,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg.

When asked whether Iran needed to be among those countries he said “without doubt”.

Oil prices, which had edged into positive territory, fell after Prince Mohammed’s comments.

Brent crude fell $1.63 cents, or 4%, to $38.70 a barrel. Prices rose 6% in the first three months of this year – the first quarterly increase since a 15% rally between April and June 2015.

A monthly survey by Reuters this week showed that oil output from the 13 OPEC members rose in March on higher production from Iran and near-record exports from southern Iraq.

Iraq reported OPEC’s biggest supply growth last year, producing more than 4 million barrels per day – making it the cartel’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia.

In February, Saudi Arabia and Russia said they would freeze oil output at January levels if other producers followed suit.

Oil prices have fallen from their recent peak of $116 in June 2014 because of oversupply and sluggish demand.

Saudi Arabia has decided to break off diplomatic ties with Iran, amid a row over the execution of Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir has announced.

Adel al-Jubeir was speaking after demonstrators had stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed on January 2 after being convicted of terror-related offences.

Adel al-Jubeir said that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours.

Saudi Arabia was recalling its diplomats from Tehran, he said.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would not let Iran undermine its security, accusing it of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”.

“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” he told a news conference.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said: “We will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions.”

“We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential,” he said.

Earlier on January 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” for the execution – an act which also angered Shia Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr a “martyr” who had acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 2, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police. The Saudi foreign ministry said none of its diplomats had been harmed in the incident.

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – they back opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Relations between the countries have been strained over various issues in recent decades, including Iran’s nuclear program and deaths of Iranians at the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 and again in 2015.

Most of the 47 people executed by Saudi Arabia were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks over the last decade.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was involved in anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Arab Spring, up to his arrest in 2012.

The execution sparked new demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Shia Muslims complain of marginalization, as well as in Iraq, Bahrain and several other countries.

The top Shia cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denounced the execution as an “unjust aggression”.

The leader of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, launched his sharpest attack yet on the Saudi ruling family on January 3, accusing them of seeking to ignite a Shia-Sunni civil war across the world.

Hassan Nasrallah said the blood of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr would “plague the Al Saud [family] until the Day of Resurrection”, prompting cries of “Death to the Al Saud!” among an audience watching his address.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for its execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as a “martyr” who acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 2, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was one of 47 people executed for terrorism offences.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been executed for his opposition to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemns Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution

The ayatollah tweeted: “This oppressed scholar had neither invited people to armed movement, nor was involved in covert plots.”

“The only act of #SheikhNimr was outspoken criticism,” he added, saying the “unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians”.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been a figurehead in the anti-government protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring up to his arrest in 2012.

Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – has led condemnation among Shia communities over the execution.

The foreign ministry in Tehran said the Sunni kingdom would pay a high price for its action, and it summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran in protest.

Some of the protesters at the Saudi embassy in Tehran hurled petrol bombs and rocks. Forty people have been arrested, officials said.

There have also been demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Shia Muslims complain of marginalization, as well as in Iraq, Bahrain and several other countries.

For its part, Saudi Arabia complained to the Iranian envoy in Riyadh about what it called “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution has worsened long-running tensions between the two Middle Eastern nations, which support opposite sides in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts.

The US and UN have both called for restraint.

In a statement after the executions, State Department spokesman John Kirby appealed to Saudi Arabia’s government to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings.

John Kirby also urged the Saudi government to permit peaceful expression of dissent and, along with other leaders in the region, to redouble efforts to reduce regional tensions.

Most of the 47 executed by Saudi Arabia were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks last decade.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

The execution of Saudi Arabia’s prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has sparked anger and protests in Shia communities across the region.

Shia-led Iran, Sunni-led Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival, has led the official condemnation of the execution.

Protests have taken place in Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern Province, in Bahrain and several other countries.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a vocal supporter of mass protests in the province in 2011.

He was a prominent, outspoken cleric who articulated the feelings of those in Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority who feel marginalized and discriminated against.Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution protests

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 people put to death on January 2 after being convicted of terrorism offences.

In the early hours of January 3, unconfirmed reports from Tehran said that the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital had come under attack from protesters.

Iranian officials have been strident in their condemnation of the execution. The foreign ministry said the Sunni kingdom would pay a high price for its action, and it has summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran in protest.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps said a “harsh revenge” would be exacted for the execution, Iranian news agencies report.

Saudi Arabia in turn summoned the Iranian envoy “and handed him a strong-worded protest note on the aggressive Iranian statements”, a foreign ministry statement said.

The website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei posted a picture suggesting the execution was comparable to the actions of ISIS.

As the Shia power in the region, Iran takes huge interest in the affairs of Shia minorities in the Middle East.

However, one of the principal concerns of the Saudis is what they see as the growing influence of Iran in places like Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

At least one protest march was held in Qatif, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, defying a ban on public protests.

Protesters shouted the slogans “The people want the fall of the regime”, and “Down with the al-Saud family”, reminiscent of the 2011 protests in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s arrest in 2012, during which he was shot, triggered days of protests in Eastern Province in which three people were killed.

January 2 executions were carried out simultaneously in 12 locations across Saudi Arabia. Of the 47 executed, one was a Chadian national while another was Egyptian. The rest were Saudis.

The international rights group Amnesty International said the 47 executions demonstrated the Saudi authorities’ “utter disregard for human rights and life” and called Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s trial “political and grossly unfair”.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s family said he had been found guilty, among other charges, of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom but his supporters say he advocated only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.

Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia Muslims and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

Saudi Arabia’s prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr has been executed, the interior ministry said.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was among 47 put to death after being convicted of terrorism offences, it said in a statement.

He was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority has long complained of marginalization.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s arrest the following year triggered days of unrest.

His death sentence was confirmed in October 2014.Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr executed in Saudi Arabia

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s family said he was found guilty of seeking “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, “disobeying” its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.

Shia-led Iran – the main regional rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia – said Riyadh will pay a “high price” for executing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Those also put to death include Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in 2003, reports said.

Of the 47 executed, one was a Chadian national while another was Egyptian. The rest are Saudis.

Protests broke out in early 2011 in the oil-rich Eastern Province in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ‘s supporters say he supported only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.

He had been a persistent critic of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni royal family.

His brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, said he hoped any reaction to the execution would be peaceful.

A lawmaker in Iraq’s governing Shia coalition said the death aimed at “provoking sectarian fighting”, while Lebanon’s Shia council called it a “grave mistake”, Reuters reported.

Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran for stirring up discontent.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

At least 5 people have been killed and nine wounded in an attack on a Shia gathering hall in Saihat, eastern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry says.

The killings, in Saihat in Eastern Province on October 16, come two days after the start of Ashura commemorations, a holy occasion for Shia Muslims.

A group claiming links to Islamic State (ISIS) said it carried out the attack.

The Saudi Arabian interior ministry said a gunman opened fire at random before police intervened and shot the attacker dead.

Later, a group calling itself Islamic State-Bahrain State said that one of its “soldiers” had attacked “a Shia infidel temple” with an automatic weapon.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The group warned that “infidels will not be safe in the island of Mohammed”.

Correspondents say the name of the group appears to be a reference to the historic area of Bahrain, which once encompassed parts of what is now Saudi Arabia.

Other, smaller attacks against the Shia community in the east of Saudi Arabia were also reported on Friday evening.

The minority Shia community in Saudi Arabia is increasingly being targeted. Most live in the oil-rich east, and many complain of discrimination.

In May, ISIS said it had carried out a deadly bomb attack outside a Shia mosque in the city of Damman.

A week before, more than 20 people were killed in the village of al-Qadeeh when an ISIS suicide bomber struck during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque.

That attack was the first to be claimed by a Saudi branch of ISIS.

Hardline Sunnis regard Shia Muslims as heretics.

Saudi Arabia, which is part of a US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, has previously been threatened by ISIS.

The Saudis are also leading a coalition of Arab states in an air campaign against Shia rebels in Yemen.

In the Ashura commemorations, Shias mourn the death of Hussein, a venerated grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saudi Arabia government has decided to cut spending and delay some state projects after the recent decline in the price of oil, Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf has announced.

Talking to broadcaster CNBC Arabia, Ibrahim al-Assaf said Saudi Arabia was in a good position to manage low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporting country, has maintained its production levels despite a collapse in the price of oil.

Oil is trading at less than $50 per barrel, half the price of a year ago.

“We have built reserves, cut public debt to near-zero levels and we are now working on cutting unnecessary expenses while focusing on main development projects and on building human resources in the kingdom,” Ibrahim al-Assaf said in the interview.Saudi Arabia economy 2015

Some areas of the economy will still receive investment, the finance minister said, as Saudi Arabia tries to improve industries outside energy.

“Projects in sectors such as education, health and infrastructure are not only important for the private sector but also for the long-term growth of the Saudi economy,” he said.

Ibrahim al-Assaf did not give details of where cuts would happen.

It may issue bonds, or Islamic bonds known as sukuk to finance some spending, Ibrahim al-Assaf said.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has more than $600 billion in reserves it can draw upon should expenditure outstrip income from oil exports.