PHOTO: Police hold back crowd in Tehran as fire burns in Saudi Embassy

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UPDATE 2130 GMT: Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference that all Iranian diplomats must leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours and that Riyadh is recalling all personnel from Tehran.

Jubeir accusing Iran of having “distributed weapons and planted terrorist cells in the region”: “Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry had earlier rejected reports that diplomats were being expelled after the dispute over the Saudi execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr.

UPDATE 1000 GMT: President Rouhani has tried to ease tension with a statement that “the action by a number of extremist people last night which damaged the Saudi embassy and consulate is in no way justifiable”.

The Foreign Ministry has also denied a story, circulated by outlets like Russian State site RT, that both Iran and Saudi Arabia have demanded the expulsion of each other’s Ambassadors.

UPDATE 0800 GMT: Addressing clerics, the Supreme Leader has said of the execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, “Without a doubt, the unlawfully shed blood of this innocent martyr will have a rapid effect and the divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said of the “political mistake”: “The Almighty God will not remain indifferent to innocent blood and unrightfully-shed blood will rapidly afflict the politicians and executives of [the Saudi] regime.”

Khamenei also criticized Saudi support of the Bahraini regime and its military intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Protesters in Iran’s capital Tehran burned and ransacked the Saudi Embassy on Saturday night, hours after Saudi Arabia executed 47 detainees, including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr.

Iranian authorities had announced a demonstration for Sunday outside the Embassy, but the crowd gathered during the night, chanting “Death to Saudi Arabia”, and soon rushed the Embassy, throwing Molotov cocktails at the compound. Protesters broke furniture and smashed windows in an Embassy annex, setting fire to the room.

Police then arrived and cleared the Embassy grounds, extinguishing the fire. A large crowd remained outside the compound.

There was also a demonstration outside the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad.

Smoke rises from the Embassy in Tehran:


A ransacked office:


Demonstrators with flag from Saudi consulate in Mashhad:


Saudis Execute Cleric After 3-Year Detention

Al-Nimr had led protests in Saudi’s Eastern Province, where most of the country’s Shia Muslims live. Residents have long complained about discrimination and injustice, including widespread detentions, while Saudi’s Sunni-led regime accused protesters of attacking police and public facilities.

The cleric was detained on two occasions before he was shot in the leg and seized by police in July 2012. He was sentenced to death in October 2014, a verdict confirmed by the Saudi Supreme Court a year later.

See Saudi Arabia Feature: Leading Shia Cleric Among 47 Executed

“Blood Will Stain House of Saud”

Leading Iranian officials immediately condemned the executions and warned of consequences for the Saudis. The Supreme Leader’s office compared Saudi Arabia’s regime to the Islamic State and said the incident would spur the “Islamic Awakening”, Tehran’s term claiming the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa from 2011.

Tehran Prayer leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, said, “I have no doubt that this pure blood will stain the collar of the House of Saud and wipe them from the pages of history.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jabari Ansari warned, “It is clear that this barren and irresponsible policy will have consequences for those endorsing it, and the Saudi government will have to pay for pursuing this policy.”

See Iran Feature: “Saudi Execution of Leading Cleric Will ‘Wipe It from Pages of History’”

The Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Saudi Chargé d’Affaires to berate him over the execution. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told the diplomat, “Saudi Arabia is the prime suspect of growth of terrorism and extremism in the region.”

Amir Abdollahian also raised other Iranian grievances, such as the casualties — including almost 500 Iranians — from a crush at the Hajj pilgrimage in October:

Saudi Arabia has not fulfilled its duties vis-à-vis the Mina tragedy that resulted in the death of thousands of Hajj pilgrims in Mecca, and yet we unfortunately witness the execution of a prominent religious leader of the Muslim world and Saudi disrespect for the Muslim community and hurting the sentiments of Muslims and warmongering in the region.