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Bahrain uncovers Iran-linked militant group behind attacks on security

By Reuters - Mar 04,2017 - Last updated at Mar 04,2017

DUBAI — Bahrain said on Saturday it had uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked militant group suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organising a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons.

It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied kingdom, where the US fifth fleet is based.

Tensions have been rising in the kingdom since last year after authorities stepped up a crackdown on dissent, banning the main opposition group Al Wefaq, arresting a leading activist and critic of the government and revoking the citizenship of the spiritual leader of the country's majority Shiites.

State news agency BNA on Saturday quoted the chief prosecutor Ahmed Al Hammadi as saying that security forces have arrested 25 members and seized 11 pistols and Kalashnikov rifles in a series of operations, including an attempted arms smuggling in December.

Hammadi also said that an investigation into the January prison break revealed that a Germany-based leader of the group had helped organise trips for members from Bahrain to Iran and Iraq for training, according to BNA.

"The investigation revealed that ... several members [were sent] to Iran and Iraq to train on the use of explosives and automatic weapons in [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist acts inside the country," Hammadi said, according to BNA.

The group was suspected of involvement in six armed attacks, including the January 1 assault on Jau prison that resulted in the death of one policeman and the escape of 10 convicted inmates and the stealing of weapons, the report said.

Members of the group also killed an officer at his farm in Bilad Al Qadeem on January 28, and organised an attempt to smuggle the escaped Jau prison inmates abroad in February. Authorities said at the time that security forces killed three men and captured seven during a gun battle at sea as they tried to flee to Iran. 

 

Bahrain frequently accuses Iran, a Shiite theocracy, of being behind bomb attacks targeting security services and fomenting Shiite protests. Iran denies interfering in Bahrain, although it acknowledges support for opposition groups seeking greater rights for Bahrain's Shiites.

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