Thousands protest in Baghdad over Saudi execution of Shiite cleric (VIDEO)

Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Baghdad January 4, 2016. © Thaier Al-Sudani
Thousands of protesters staged a massive rally in front of the Saudi embassy in Baghdad following the execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr which has split the Muslim world along sectarian lines.

LIVE UPDATES: Uproar in Middle East after Saudi Arabia executes top Shiite cleric

Protesters carrying posters of Nimr chanted “Damned, damned be Al Saud!” in reference to the Saudi Royal family. The crowd at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad demanded the government boycott Saudi commercial goods in response to Saudi Arabia’s latest executions.

While burning photos of King Salman of Saudi Arabia near Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, angry Iraqis called on Baghdad to reconsider the re-opening of the Saudi embassy. The embassy was reopened only last month after being closed since 1990.

“We demand that the Saudi embassy be closed down and all Saudi interests terminated,” one demonstrator Ahmad, told AFP.

Monday's rally became extremely heated as more than 5,000 protesters in central Baghdad threatened to burn down the building.

“Government, find a solution because today we will burn the embassy,” the crowd chanted. However a strong police presents prevented arson from taking place. No injuries were reported during the mass rally.

Sheikh Nimr was among 47 people executed on Saturday at the hands of the Saudi government after being convicted of “terrorism” offenses. The Shiite cleric was one of seven people accused of orchestrating anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province in 2011.

The execution of the prisoners sparked mass outrage in the Middle East. In response to the death of Nimr, Iranians set fire to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran on Saturday. The move forced Riyadh to sever diplomatic relations with Iran. Bahrain and Sudan have also announced that they are cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran.

As tensions along Shiite and Sunni lines continue across the Muslim world, relations between Baghdad and Riyadh are still strong, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told Sputnik on Monday.

“Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia are continuing. Iraq has previously announced its position, rejected the execution of Sheikh Al-Nimr, as such actions do not contribute to the strengthening of international relations or to peace in society,” Jamal said.

At the same time, Jamal noted that the executions are not a strong enough reason to cut off diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia which have recently resumed, following a long break after the first Gulf War.

“Iraq cares for the security of embassies and diplomatic missions, and cherishes its relations with Saudi Arabia,” the spokesman added.