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Citing a shortage of swordsmen, Saudi Arabia is considering performing executions using firing squads instead of public beheadings :

A joint Saudi committee composed of representatives of the ministries of interior, justice and health is mulling the replacement of beheading with firing squads for capital sentences due to shortages in government swordsmen, Saudi daily Al-Youm reported on Sunday.

The committee argued that such a step, if adopted, would not violate Islamic law, allowing heads – or emirs – of the country’s 13 local administrative regions to begin using the new method when needed.

“This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents; the aim is to avoid interruption of the regularly-taken security arrangements,” the committee said in a statement.

The ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom beheaded 76 people in 2012, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Human Rights Watch (HRW) put the number at 69.

In rare cases the beheading is followed by the crucifixion of the headless corpse.

Whatever the supply of swordsmen, the Saudis are likely considering this change with an eye to international pressure to end the practice.

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