Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 81 persons convicted of crimes ranging from killings to belonging to militant groups, the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history. The number of executed surpassed even the toll of a January 1980 mass execution of the 63 militants convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, the worst-ever militant attack to target the kingdom and Islam’s holiest site.
These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” Saudi Press Agency said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.
The kingdom also said some of those executed were members of Al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and also backers of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Those executed included 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis and one Syrian.
“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” according to SPA.
“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.
It wasn’t clear why the kingdom chose Saturday for the executions, though they came as much of the world’s attention remained focused on Ukraine war. British PM Boris Johnson reportedly plans a trip to Saudi Arabia next week over oil prices. The number of such executions in Saudi Arabia had dropped during the Covid pandemic, though the kingdom continued to behead convicts under King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.