Saudi executes Yemeni over Spanish theatre group stabbing

Riyadh (AFP) –


Saudi Arabia on Thursday executed a Yemeni man convicted over a knife attack on a Spanish theatre group, the interior ministry said, amid a controversial push to ease decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

The man, identified as Imad al-Mansouri, had been sentenced to death for the November 11 attack during a live performance in Riyadh, which state media linked to militant group Al-Qaeda and which Madrid said left four performers wounded.

"The death sentence was carried out... in Riyadh," the ministry said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency.

The assailant was accused of going on a stabbing spree during a musical in the capital's King Abdullah Park, one of the venues hosting the two-month "Riyadh Season" entertainment festival.

It was the first such assault since the country began easing restrictions on entertainment.

The state-run Al-Ekhbariya television said the attacker took orders from an Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, but so far there has been no claim of responsibility from the group.

Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and has also been involved in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is active in Yemen, is considered by the United States as the radical group's most dangerous branch.

Observers also point at burbling resentment among arch-conservatives in the kingdom over the government's multi-billion dollar entertainment push as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.

De facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pursued sweeping social reforms to modernise the kingdom, lifting decades-long bans on cinemas and women drivers while allowing gender-mixed concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

Saudi Arabia executed at least 187 people on death row in 2019, according to a tally based on official data, the highest since 1995 when 195 people were executed.

Twelve people have been executed so far this year, according to official data.