TEHRAN: Angry crowds protesting at Saudi Arabia’s execution of a top Shia cleric hurled petrol bombs and stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran Saturday before being cleared out by police, ISNA news agency reported.
In Mashhad, Iran’s second biggest city, demonstrators meanwhile set fire to the Saudi consulate, according to news sites, carrying pictures of the alleged assault.
The incidents came hours after the announcement of the death of 56-year-old cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a key figure in anti-government protests in the kingdom since 2011.
The execution prompted strong condemnation from Shia-majority Iran and Iraq.
“There are flames inside the embassy… demonstrators were able to get inside but have since been cleared out,” ISNA said.
Protesters had been able to climb up onto the roof of the embassy before they were made to leave, it added.
Websites carried pictures of demonstrators apparently clutching the Saudi flag, which had been pulled down.
Iranian media quoted foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari as asking police to “protect Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions in Tehan and Mashhad… and prevent any demonstrations in front of these sites.”
Nimr, who spent more than a decade studying theology in Iran, was among a group of 47 Shias and Sunnis executed Saturday on charges of terrorism.
Iran, the Sunni kingdom’s longtime rival, said in reaction to Nimr’s execution that “the Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution.”
It will “pay a high price for following these policies,” Jaber Ansari had warned before the attacks took place.
In response, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Iran’s envoy to protest at the “aggressive Iranian statements on the legal sentences carried out today”.
The Saudi interior ministry said the men had been convicted of adopting the radical “takfiri” ideology, joining “terrorist organisations” and implementing various “criminal plots”.
An official list published included Sunnis convicted of involvement in Al-Qaeda attacks that killed Saudis and foreigners in 2003 and 2004.
Iran ‘sponsors terror’, has ‘no shame’: Saudi
Saudi Arabia accused Iran of sponsoring terror and undermining regional stability, as a diplomatic spat between both countries escalated Saturday over the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric.
“The Iranian regime is the last regime in the world that could accuse others of supporting terrorism, considering that (Iran) is a state that sponsors terror, and is condemned by the United Nations and many countries,” said a foreign ministry spokesman in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
The statement was the second after the kingdom’s foreign ministry announced it had summoned the Iranian ambassador in Riyadh to protest an “aggressive” statement by Tehran on the execution of Saudi Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
“Iran’s regime has no shame as it rants on human rights matters, even after it executed hundreds of Iranians last year without a clear legal basis,” said the statement.
In Tehran meanwhile, angry crowds hurled Molotov cocktails and stormed the Saudi embassy in protest at Nimr’s execution before being cleared by police, ISNA news agency reported. Fires were seen burning inside the building, it said.
Nimr, who spent more than a decade studying theology in Iran and had been a driving force behind Shia-led anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia since 2011, was among a group of 47 Shias and Sunnis executed Saturday for “terrorism”.
The group included many Qaeda-linked militants involved in deadly bombings in the kingdom since 2003.
Iran, the Sunni kingdom’s longtime foe, said in reaction to Nimr’s execution that “the Saudi government supports terrorist movements and extremists, but confronts domestic critics with oppression and execution.”
It will “pay a high price for following these policies,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari.
Iran’s statements reveal its “true face as a backer of terrorism, which is a continuity of its policies in undermining security and stability in the region,” the unidentified Saudi ministry spokesman said.
“By defending the acts of terrorists… the Iranian regime is considered a partner in their crimes and is held completely responsible for its policies of incitement and escalation.”
Iran has offered “many Al-Qaeda leaderships safe haven since 2001” in addition to “offering an Iranian passport” to a Saudi suspect involved in 1996 bombings in the kingdom who was arrested last year, the ministry said.
It criticised Iran’s “flagrant interferences in regional countries, including Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, as well as Syria where it has directly intervened through its Revolutionary Guard and Shiite militia” causing the death of tens of thousands of Syrians.
Iran-linked cells smuggling explosives and arms to Bahrain and Kuwait have also been uncovered, the kingdom recalled.
Regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran are supporting opposite sides in several conflict zones across the region.
Saudi Arabia’s “justice system is independent, just and transparent and does not… operate discreetly as the is case in Iran,” the statement added.