Al-Qaida Threatens Saudi Arabia With Retribution for Executing Militants

Most of the 47 executed on January 2 were Al-Qaida militants convicted of bombings and gun attacks in the Kingdom.

Iranian demonstrators chant slogans during a protest denouncing the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia, seen in posters, in front of the Saudi Embassy, in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016.

REUTERS - Al-Qaida has warned Saudi Arabia it will pay for the executions of dozens of its members, saying they were intended to be a new year's gift to Riyadh's Western allies aimed at consolidating the rule of the Saud dynasty.

Though it was the killing of a Shi’ite cleric in the January 2 mass execution which sparked a crisis between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran, most of the 47 executed were Al-Qaida militants convicted of bombings and gun attacks in the kingdom.

In a statement dated January 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.

"But they (Riyadh) insisted on offering the blood of the good Mujahideen as a sacrifice for the Crusaders on their holiday, in the New Year," the two groups said in the statement posted on social media.

"Let them wait for the day when God will heal the chests of the families of the martyrs, their brothers and those who love them from the arrogant infidel," it added.

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, ISIS, a Sunni rival of Al-Qaida, threatened to destroy Saudi Arabian prisons holding jihadists after the executions.

Both organisations 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 Shi’ite cleric and three other Shi’ite Muslims, which drove up sectarian tension with Shi’ite power Iran, analysts say they were meant mostly to send a signal to militant Sunnis.

These analysts suggest Saudi Arabia was aiming to crush support for Sunni jihadists active in the kingdom without alienating more moderate Sunnis.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in Saudi Arabia since November 2014 that have killed more than fifty people, most of them Shi’ites but also more than fifteen members of the security forces.