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Bahrain arrests 116 in alleged Iran-linked cell

‘Armed network set up by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday that a number of terrorist operations have been thwarted, and 116 Iran-backed terrorist elements have been arrested. (AFP)

DUBAI, March 3, (Agencies): Bahrain said on Saturday that it had arrested 116 people accused of belonging to a “terror” cell allegedly linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. An official statement on state news agency BNA said that security services had in the process thwarted a number of attacks and seized large quantities of arms and explosives.

Authorities in the tiny Gulf state have cracked down hard on dissent since mass street protests in 2011 which demanded an elected prime minister and constitutional monarchy in the Sunni-ruled, Shiite majority kingdom. Bahrain frequently accuses opposition figures of links to Shiite Iran, which denies supporting any bid to overthrow the government. The statement charged that the cell planned to target leading security figures and carry out attacks on oil and other vital installations. It accused those detained of being members of a cell formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and said that as many as 48 of those detained had received military training in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

They received training on the use of explosives, light arms, artillery and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the statement. Police seized 42 kgs (93 pounds) of high explosives, 757 kgs of materials used to manufacture explosives, several Kalashnikovs and grenades, it said. The main suspected terrorist leaders include Aqeel Al Sari, Murtadha Al Sindi and Qassim Al Muamen, according to the official news agency, which also said that all are responsible for recruiting terrorists in Bahrain, arranging firearms and explosives training for terrorists, establishing secret warehouses and hideouts, and supplying terrorist groups with funding, firearms and explosives to carry out attacks. The investigation also revealed that 48 of the 116 suspected terrorists arrested had received training at IRGC facilities in Iran and their affiliated locations in Iraq and Lebanon.

The terrorist groups within the network were responsible for the following: Organising warehouses to store weapons and explosives, monitoring potential locations for terrorist attacks, transporting and distributing cash and explosives, manufacturing explosives and executing terrorist attacks. A key US ally and home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain has drawn harsh criticism from international rights groups over its crackdown on dissent.

In January Bahrain police arrested 47 people on terrorism-related charges. Dozens of Bahrainis have been jailed and stripped of citizenship since Arab Spring-inspired protests broke out in 2011. Bahrain’s parliament and king last year granted military courts jurisdiction to try civilians charged with “terrorism” — a vaguely defined legal term. The kingdom has also deported citizens whose nationalities had been revoked. Last month Bahrain accused Iran of training and arming two men accused of bombing a Saudi Aramco oil pipeline outside the capital Manama — an allegation Tehran dismissed as “false”.

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