Al Qaeda leader threatens Saudi Arabia over mass execution

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The leader of al Qaeda has called for attacks on Saudi Arabia after the kingdom's mass execution of 47 people in January, many of whom were tied to the terror group.

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Al-Zawahiri's comments came in a seven-minute audio recording released earlier this week and reported by a U.S.-based terror monitor, the SITE Intelligence Group, on Thursday.

In it, the Egyptian doctor and militant leader exhorted his followers to launch new attacks against the interests of the kingdom's ruling Al Saud family, which he called a "rotten regime that corrupted your religion."

Al-Zawahiri also called for attacks on "the Zionist-Crusader alliance", referring to Israel and its Western allies, as "this is what hurts Al Saud much."

However, Saudi Arabia likely faces a greater threat from the al Qaeda -breakaway Islamic State group, which has claimed a series of attacks in the kingdom in recent months, than al Qaeda itself.

The Jan. 2 Saudi executions included a number of people convicted in al Qaeda attacks that roiled the kingdom some 10 years ago. In the time since, however, al Qaeda has been eclipsed by the Islamic State group, a breakaway faction that holds territory in Iraq and Syria.

Al-Zawahiri's message comes amid high tensions between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite power Iran over the executions, which included that of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Al-Zawahiri dismissed the killing of al-Nimr as part of the "Saudi-Iranian competition for power in the region." After his death, protesters in Iran attacked two of the kingdom's diplomatic posts and the kingdom cuts diplomatic ties to the Islamic Republic, raising regional tensions.


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