The Middle East was braced for sectarian violence Saturday after Saudi Arabia said it had executed 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric responsible for anti-government protests in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring, NBC News reported.
There were warnings of a backlash against the ruling Al Saud family after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was named on list of prisoners carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia has executed at least 157 people in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to advocacy groups.
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"Saudi Arabia's allies - including the US and UK - must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course," said Maya Foe, a spokeswoman for the rights group Reprieve, adding that 4 of the 47 executed were political prisoners.