The killing of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr may spark new unrest among Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority, largely concentrated in the kingdom's east, and in Bahrain, which has seen low-level violence since 2011 protests by its Shiite majority demanding greater rights from its Sunni monarchy.

The cleric's name was on a list of the 47 carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. It cited the Interior Ministry for the information. Saudi state television also reported the executions.

Of those executed, Saudi Arabia said 45 were Saudi citizens, one was from Chad and another was from Egypt.

Saudi Arabia said a royal court order was issued to implement the sentences after all appeals had been exhausted.

Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

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