The number of executed surpassed even the toll of a January 1980 mass execution for the 63 militants convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.

The kingdom said some of the executed people were members of al Qaida, Daesh and also backers of Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The kingdom said some of the executed people were members of al Qaida, Daesh and also backers of Yemen's Houthi rebels. (AA)

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 people 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 state-run Saudi Press Agency announced the executions on Saturday, saying it included 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis and one Syrian.

Those who are executed were “convicted of various crimes, including the murdering of innocent men, women and children,” it reported. 

The kingdom also said some of them were members of al Qaida, the Daesh terror group and also backers of Yemen's Houthi rebels. 

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process, which found them guilty of committing multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

“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 did not say how the prisoners were executed, though death-row inmates typically are beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

READ MORE: 2019 geared to be the worst year for executions in Saudi Arabia this decade

International criticism

The executions drew immediate international criticism.

“The world should know by now that when Mohammed Bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,” said Soraya Bauwens, the deputy director of Reprieve, a London-based advocacy group.

It wasn't clear why the kingdom choose Saturday for the executions, though they came as much of the world's attention remained focused on Russia's attacks in Ukraine.

In addition, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans a trip to Saudi Arabia next week over oil prices.

The number of death penalty cases being carried out in Saudi Arabia had dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, though the kingdom continued to behead convicts under King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for woman activist - rights groups

Source: AP