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Saudi Arabia executes alleged Yemeni Al-Qaeda knifeman who attacked Riyadh festival performers

Four Spanish performers were wounded during the knife attack [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2020

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Saudi authorities have said Imad Abd al-Qawi al-Mansouri carried out the on-stage knife attack on the orders of an Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has executed a Yemeni man accused of carrying out a knife attack on Spanish theatre performers on orders of Al-Qaeda, state news agency SPA reported.

Imad Abd al-Qawi al-Mansouri was sentenced to death in December last year for what authorities described as a terrorist attack during a 2019 music festival.

The assailant, earlier identified as a 33-year-old Yemeni, went on a stabbing spree during a live musical performance in the capital's King Abdullah Park, one of the venues hosting the two-month "Riyadh Season" entertainment festival.

Saudi authorities said that man was executed for Al-Hiraba, a penalty which can include crucifixion and quartering of the deceased.

Four Spanish nationals were wounded during the attack, according to Spain's foreign ministry.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, Saudi authorities have claimed the assailant took orders from an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader in Yemen.

An unidentified accomplice was also sentenced to 12 years and six months in jail over the 11 November assault.

Saudi Arabia has lead a military coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels since 2015, but is also been involved in the fight against Al-Qaeda in the country.

AQAP, which is active in Yemen, is considered by the US as the radical group's most dangerous branch.

Observers also point at simmering resentment among arch-conservatives in the kingdom over the multi-billion dollar entertainment push by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The festival took place as part of a broad government push to draw tourists to the kingdom and to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, has also pursued social reforms that mark the biggest cultural shakeup in the kingdom's modern history.

He has allowed mixed-gender concerts and the reopening of cinemas, as well as loosening restrictions on women as part of the Saudi male guardianship system.

Although the reforms are popular among Saudi Arabia's mainly young population, they risk angering religious hardliners in the deeply conservative nation.

Critics abroad say measures to open up the kingdom for tourist - such as loosening social restrictions and hosting lavish entertainment festivals attended by social media influencers and celebrities - are an attempt to distract potential visitors from continuing human rights abuses.


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