Manama // A suspected bomb killed one man and seriously injured another as the government continued actions against militant activity in Bahrain by arresting members of a terrorist cell, believed to be linked to al Qa'eda. The two separate incidents last week come after the pardon of 178 Bahrainis accused of security-related charges. The move was part of an effort by the government and leading groups from the Shiite opposition to bring an end to the sectarian-related violence that has gripped the country since the end of 2007.
Thursday's night explosion occurred in the Shiite village of Daih on the outskirts of the capital. It killed a 29-year-old man and seriously injured another man after a bomb exploded inside the car they were in. Both men were Shiites. The father of three was killed after the ensuing fire trapped him in the car while the driver, age 24, managed to escape. He was rushed to the hospital where he was said to be in a critical condition with third-degree burns to his face.
A statement issued by the public prosecution office on Friday said initial investigations reveal the fire was the result of a homemade bomb. "Inspection of the sight revealed the existence of twisted metal scattered in the location of the incident, three batteries, a metal wrench, as well as plastic wires." A statement by the ministry of the interior on Friday also confirmed that a bomb was the cause of the car fire. It quoted the head of the Criminal Investigation Directorate saying officials in the ministry had "warned of the danger of dealing with hazardous material and its impact on those who are exposed to it or used against", indicating the two knew the bomb was in the car.
The explosion coincided with reports about the arrest of a terrorist cell, the second of its kind in less than five months, which according to the ministry of interior, was planning to carry out attacks in Bahrain and neighbouring Gulf countries. Lt Gen Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al Khalifa, the minister of the interior, said two men were detained after a raid on their homes that lead to the discovery of two AK-47 machineguns, a Beretta pistol, ammunition for the three weapons, along with swords and knifes. Police also discovered CDs, computers, evidence of bank accounts and payrolls, all of which the two admitted owning.
Abdullah Hashim, the lawyer for the two men who is also the general secretary of the National Justice Movement (NJM), confirmed the arrest of the two Sunni men, both 22. "They both appeared in front of the public prosecutor and were questioned without their lawyers and from what we understand the arrests and the review of the case was completed over the weekend despite what has been said about it as a major case," he said.
Mr Hashim, who said that owning weapons without permits was illegal, added that defence lawyers will scrutinise all the other allegations. The NJM, which was formed in 2005 to help represent the Sunni opposition, has been at the forefront of criticising the US-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding fair treatment of those accused of terrorism at home and abroad. The arrest of the two is not the first time that the country has had to deal with suspected terrorist groups. Since 2003, several cases have been brought against cells and individuals with links to al Qa'eda suspected of plans to carry out attacks in Bahrain.
The level of threat reached a climax in July 2004 when families of US navy sailors attached to the US Navy Fifth Fleet Command headquarters and US embassy staff were evacuated as a precautionary measure. Last December, officials arrested more than 30 people, including three key Shiite opposition figures, claiming the arrests were related to a foiled terrorist attack planned to disrupt National Day celebrations by carrying out attacks with homemade bombs.
Authorities at the time said some members of the group had received training in Syria and were led by Bahraini Shiite opposition figures based in Britain. Those arrested included Hasan Mushaima, the secretary general of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy; Abdul Jalil al Singace, the movement's spokesman and head of its human rights committee, and Mohammed Habib al Muqdad, a Shiite clergymen.
The three had denied the charges as politically motivated. The pardoning three weeks ago of 178 men, most of whom were Shiites and who were arrested on security charges is part of an effort to end violence in the country. It did not include 25 Shiites accused of taking part in two separate attacks in April 2008 and March of this year, which left two Pakistani men dead, including a policeman. Legal proceedings against the 25 had been suspended by the government as negotiations with the families of the two Pakistanis discussed compensation to secure the release of the suspects.
Al Wefaq society, the key Shiite opposition group, which had brokered the deal for the release, had welcomed the move as part of efforts to stop the further deterioration of the security situation in the country. Member of parliament and secretary general of Al Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, in a press conference after the pardons, said the group rejected violence from any side to resolve differences.