Manama: Saudi Arabia could soon replace beheading with a sword by a firing squad when carrying out the death penalty in public.

“A specialised committee made up of representatives from the ministries of interior, justice and health as well as the commissions of investigation and prosecution, the public security and the prison general directorate are looking into a study that replaces beheading by a firing squad,” sources told local Arabic daily Al Youm.

However, the country’s area governors have already been given the right to resort to the firing squad, the sources said.

“They can use their own discretion for the execution if the court does not specify how the capital punishment verdict is to be carried out,” the unidentified sources said. “Using the firing squad is not against Islam.”

According to the sources, the limited number of executioners by the sword was a major reason for the decision.

“They are not readily available everywhere and on some occasions, executions were marred by confusion as the executioner was late in showing up at the designated public place, causing confusion and sparking speculation and rumours,” the sources said.

Cases where a firing squad was used to carry out a capital execution included a woman who was found guilty of murdering her husband and hiding his body.

The woman was executed at the women’s prison in the northern city of Hael.

Her daughter, an accomplice in the murder, was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Offences that could result in the death penalty in Saudi Arabia include murder, rape, armed robbery, repeated drug use, apostasy, false prophecy, witchcraft and sorcery.

According to reports, 15 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year.