x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Bahrain says Iran harbouring 160 'terrorists'

Sheikh Rashed Al Khalifa said the “fugitives” were involved in “terrorism cases” that target Bahraini police

Bahrain’s interior minister said that Iran was harbouring 160 Bahrainis convicted of terrorism and stripped of their citizenship.

Sheikh Rashed Al Khalifa told Asharq Al Awsat newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday that all 160 “fugitives” were involved in “terrorism cases” that targeted Bahraini police and security forces.

He also said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards trained the group, which was convicted of attacks that killed 25 security personnel and wounded 3,000 others, according to the daily.

Bahrain, a key US ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has accused Iran of meddling in its internal affairs. Tehran denies the allegation.

Earlier this week, Bahrain — along with a number of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen — welcomed US president Donald Trump’s speech to confront the “fanatical regime” of Iran.

Mr Trump threw a landmark international agreement with Iran into doubt and announced new sanctions on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp.

Manama said that Iran was an “exporter of violence” and that it supported the US president’s “firm” strategy.

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Read more: Washington moves to approve F-16 sale to Bahrain

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Mr Trump has eased restrictions on arms sales to the small island country, which announced on Tuesday it had signed a deal worth $3.8 billion (Dh14bn) with the American company, Lockheed Martin, to acquire 16 upgraded F-16 fighters.

Bahrain accused Tehran of funding militant cells in the kingdom and of stoking the 2011 anti-government protests, which were led by the kingdom’s Shiite majority.

Demonstrations began in February and were suppressed in March by security forces. Saudi troops and Emirati police were called in to help provide security.

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Read more: Bahrain's king approves military trials for civilian terrorism cases

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In March, Bahrain said it uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked militant group suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organising a prison break in January.

Chief prosecutor Ahmed Al Hammadi said security forces arrested 25 members and seized 11 pistols and Kalashnikov rifles in a series of operations, including an attempted arms smuggling in December, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

Mr Al Hammadi also said 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.