x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bahrain arrests two girls after 'foiling F1 attack, uncovering 1,000 firebombs'

Bahrain says authorities foiled possible attacks before the kingdom's Formula One race earlier this week, which was held under tight security amid a spike in anti-government unrest.

Bahrain security forces thwarted attacks and found caches of weapons including 1,000 petrol bombs in the run-up to last weekend's Formula One race, state media reported yesterday.

Bahrain did not see a repeat of the mass demonstrations that overshadowed last year's race, although young men armed with rocks did clash with police in outlying villages, as they have done regularly since unrest erupted in early 2011.

Protests in the country broke out two years ago, with the Shiite-led opposition drawing thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms from the Sunni-led government.

Security sweeps ahead of this year's contest "thwarted a number of terrorist plots that aimed to affect normal life ... harm the reputation of the nation and commit terrorist acts against policemen", Bahrain's chief of public security, Major General Tariq Al Hassan, said according to the BNA agency.

Security forces had found several weapon caches holding 1,000 petrol bombs, 19 mock bombs, bullets and homemade guns, he said.

Security forces had also handled several incidents of rioting, including "acts of chaos and destruction" inside an industrial secondary school by students who had also blocked nearby roads and attacked cars, pedestrians and policemen, according to BNA.

"Police at no point in time raided the school or attacked it," Gen Al Hassan said.

Sayed Yousif Al Muhafdha of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights had said on Sunday police had fired tear gas at a secondary school in the city where students had been demonstrating.

Mr Al Muhafdha said yesterday that security forces had arrested up to 50 "pro-democracy activists" in the days preceding the race.