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'Get Rid of This Rotten Regime': Al Qaeda Calls for Revenge Over Saudi Executions

Most of the 47 people killed in a mass execution in Saudi Arabia on January 2 were alleged al Qaeda militants. The group now says it wants payback.
Ayman al-Zawahri en 2007 en un vídeo en el que se burlaba del ex presidente de Estados Unidos George Bush. Imagen vía AP

Al Qaeda has called for attacks on Saudi Arabia in revenge for the killing of dozens of its members in a mass execution just under two weeks ago.

Though it was the execution of a Shia cleric which sparked a crisis between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran, most of the 47 executed were alleged al Qaeda militants.

They had been convicted of bombings and gun attacks in the kingdom — although documented torture, forced confessions, and lack of access to lawyers means Saudi Arabian terrorism convictions are highly questionable.

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A statement by Ayman al Zawahri, the leader of al Qaeda's global branch, urged Saudis to overthrow the al Saud ruling dynasty and the movement's followers elsewhere to damage the kingdom by attacking its Western allies.

Related: Do You Remember al Qaeda? They Remember You

"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.

In a statement dated January 10, al Qaeda's Yemeni branch and its North African wing warned Riyadh would pay the price for going ahead with the executions despite a warning not to do so.

"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 Qaeda's Yemen branch threatened in December to "shed the blood of the soldiers of Al Saud" if its members were executed.

Related: What I Learned About al Qaeda from Analyzing the 'Bin Laden' Tapes

Both organizations are fighting against Saudi Arabia, which has declared them terrorist groups and locked up thousands of their supporters.Last week, Islamic State (IS), a Sunni rival of al Qaeda, threatened to destroy Saudi Arabian prisons holding jihadists after the executions.

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While it was the executions of Nimr al Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric and three other Shia Muslims, which drove up sectarian tension with Shia 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.

IS has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in Saudi Arabia since November 2014 that have killed more than 50 people, most of them Shias but also more than 15 members of the security forces.

Watch the VICE News documentary, Inside the Battle: Al Nusra-Al Qaeda in Syria: