A Saudi Arabian executioner who is employed by the state to behead criminals has said he is not worried about the move to execution by firing squad.

Saudi Arabia, which is being visited by Prince Charles and Camilla, is facing a shortage of trained swordsmen to carry out the beheadings and is replacing the traditional method of execution with firing squads.

The shortage of swordsmen has led to confusion and there have been cases of the executioner turning up late to a public beheading.

Seven men were publicly executed recently by a firing squad in the city of Abha for armed robbery. Two of them were believed to be under 18 when the offence took place, making their deaths a breach of international law.

Although firing squads look likely to be used more, Saudi's top swordsman Muhammad Saad al-Beshi said he would not be out of the job as he knows how to use a gun and a sword.

Swordsmen miss first time

He told the Saudi Gazette: "I taught my son the ins and outs of the work because many neglect learning the skills needed for the job."

Ali Reda, a forensic doctor at Jeddah Health Affairs, backed the move to firing squad because, he said many swordsmen miss their target the first time, meaning the condemned person has to be struck several times before decaptitation is achieved.

Beshi said he developed a desire to be an official beheader after working at a prison in Taif. He has since put hundreds to death.

On his first kill, in 1998, he said: "The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away.

"It doesn't matter to me [how many people I kill every day]; Two, four, 10 - as long as I'm doing God's will, it doesn't matter. I am very proud to do God's work."