Amnesty International has condemned an "alarming" rise in death sentences last year, as governments used capital punishment to combat crime and terrorism.

In its annual global review of death penalty use, the human rights group said the number of death sentences recorded in 2014 jumped by almost 500 compared to 2013 - mainly because of sharp spikes in Egypt and Nigeria.

In Egypt, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in mass trials over the past two years in a crackdown on Islamists.

In Nigeria, 659 death sentences were recorded in 2014, a jump of more than 500 compared to the previous year.

However, fewer executions were recorded in 2014 compared to the previous year and several countries took positive steps towards abolishing the death penalty.

Executions were recorded in 22 countries, with China again responsible for more executions than the rest of the world put together.

Amnesty believes thousands of people are executed and sentenced to death there every year but with numbers kept a state secret, the true figure is impossible to determine.

Three countries - Iran (289), Iraq (61) and Saudi Arabia (90) - accounted for 72% of all recorded executions in 2014.

The United States, with 72 executions, had the fifth-highest number of executions last year.