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State Department condemns 47 executions in Saudi Arabia as embassy burns in Iran

Iranian protesters angered by Saudi Arabia’s execution of a dissident Shiite cleric set the Saudi Embassy in Tehran ablaze and stormed the compound Saturday.

Protests started in Tehran after the execution earlier Saturday of political activist Nimr al-Nimr, the along with 47 others. Iran is a mostly Shiite Muslim country that has for decades been at odds with Saudi Arabia, a mostly Sunni kingdom that has long been a close U.S. ally.

Demonstrations occurred outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran for much of Saturday. Later protestors threw what appear to be Molotov cocktails at the building, videos and photos posted online show.

Tweets from Sobhan Hassanvand, an Iranian journalist, show protesters storming the embassy after setting it ablaze. The protesters are seen in a video running through the embassy smashing objects and tearing apart offices.

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Video shows protesters inside Saudi embassy in Tehran pic.twitter.com/DEmsNLI6ZG

— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) January 2, 2016

The scene is reminiscent of the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 during the Iranian revolution, which precipitated the Iranian hostage crisis.

The latest reports from Hassanvand show police are working to disperse the protesters from the area and firefighters are attempting to extinguish the blaze.

VIDEO: 12:08 AM, seems molotov cocktail thrown at Saudi embassy building in Tehran, protest over al-Nimr execution pic.twitter.com/d6vFKPcD6R

— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) January 2, 2016

Also Saturday, the State Department condemned the Saudi executions. The 47 people killed were accused of terrorist activities.

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In a statement released Saturday afternoon, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the American government has expressed its concern about Saudi human rights abuses in the past and continues to press those issues.

The death of Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr was particularly worrying, Kirby said.

“We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced,” Kirby said.

Many European countries previously denounced the executions.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement earlier Saturday that the killing of al-Nimr will be what brings down the Saudi government.

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Fitzpatrick said members of the House Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, which he chairs, are working on bipartisan legislation to stem the flow of money to terrorist…

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