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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Bahrain to focus on 'national identity' to address terror threats

It comes after 47 people were arrested last year accused of attempting to assassinate officials and public figures

Bahraini interior minister Lieutenant-General Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa (centre) is seen here being welcomed by US secretary of defence James Mattis as he arrives at the Pentagon on July 13, 2017. Shawn Thew / EPA
Bahraini interior minister Lieutenant-General Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa (centre) is seen here being welcomed by US secretary of defence James Mattis as he arrives at the Pentagon on July 13, 2017. Shawn Thew / EPA

Bahrain says it wants to focus on "national identity" to address security threats after 47 people were arrested last year accused of attempting to assassinate officials and public figures.

It came as the Bahraini interior ministry delivered an annual review of its operations.

"[W]e should have a comprehensive security viewpoint to understand the main reasons and motives that have a bearing on the general security situation," interior minister Lieutenant-General Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa said on Sunday.

"The primary issue that I want to focus on, owing to its direct relation with our security and stability, is our national identity ... Our Bahraini identity was affected in the aftermath of the 2011 incidents and had its implications for social relations."

Since anti-government street protests swept across Bahrain in 2011, Manama has blamed Iran for planting “terrorist cells” in the Sunni-ruled country.

The interior ministry said on Sunday it had arrested 47 "terrorists" last year after uncovering several plots to assassinate officials and public figures.

Those arrested belonged to three main groups that have been internationally designated as terrorist organisations, the ministry said, without elaborating.

No further details were given about the foiled plots but it comes after Bahrain’s top military court last month sentenced six men to death for planning to assassinate its chief of the armed forces, Field Marshal Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

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Last year, the ministry "also was able to [prevent] vandalism against oil facilities in the country, which tried to destabilise the national economy and disrupt national celebrations”, Sheikh Rashid said, adding that charges were filed against 290 people accused of inciting terrorism.

At a briefing in Manama, the interior minister presented evidence on the methods used by terror cells to attract recruits.

"Those envelopes that you see contain 50 Bahraini dinars (Dh487) each as reward, unfortunately not for police but murderers. It shows that murder is cheap, and committing acts of terror and vandalism can be rewarding,” he said.

The ministry said terror cells in Bahrain were being funded by Iran, while their members were receiving training from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, Lebanon's Hizbollah and Iraq's Hashed Al Shaabi, a Tehran-backed umbrella group of mainly Shiite militias.

Iran denies it is interfering in Bahrain’s domestic affairs by supporting terror cells in the country.

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