x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bahrain car bomb condemned

Car rigged with gas cylinders explodes outside a public park 'frequented by families and children' on Budaiya road, Bahrain's interior ministry says.

 

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan yesterday strongly condemned a car bomb blast near a major motorway in Bahrain, the latest incident in a wave of unrest on the island.

A car rigged with gas cylinders exploded Saturday evening outside a public park "frequented by families and children" on Budaiya road, Bahrain's interior ministry said in a statement posted on its website. The blast took place around Iftar time and no injuries were reported, the statement said.

Sheikh Abdullah said "the UAE condemns this criminal and terrorist act which aims to destabilise the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain," according to a statement reported by WAM. He added, "the UAE supports the Bahrainis in all measures being taken against these terrorist acts."

Bahrain has been rocked by ongoing protests since a Shiite-led uprising demanding greater political participation brought thousands to the streets in 2011.

The largest opposition party Al Wefaq condemned Saturday's attack, which is one of several recent bombings in and around the capital. Most recently, a car bomb exploded on July 17 outside a Sunni mosque in the neighbourhood of Riffa; there were no injuries reported.

"The Wefaq policy is based on peaceful methods," Al Wefaq official Khalil Al Marzouk said.

The incident comes just days after Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa approved parliamentary proposals to toughen penalties for alleged terrorist acts, including bombing incidents.

The new measures, issued by King Hamad in two decrees on July 31, raise the minimum penalties for bombings or attempted bombings and authorise the state to withdraw citizenship from anyone convicted of terrorist activity.

Also yesterday, the ministry of communications vowed to block access to websites linked to terror organisations as well as social media sites "that encourage acts of terrorism," according to BNA.

Meanwhile activists have reported a wave of arrests in recent days, including a prominent liberal blogger, Mohammed Hassan, and a photographer, Hussein Hubail.

In a bid to end ongoing political tension, Bahrain began a national dialogue between its major political blocs in February. But the discussions have moved slowly and delegates have yet to agree on an agenda for talks.

The National Unity Gathering, a predominantly Sunni political bloc and member of the talks yesterday warned that the ongoing turbulence could hurt the dialogue.

The bombing "confirms that they [the bombers] are not interested to reach an agreement through national dialogue," the statement says, adding that the group "demands security services to first and foremost arrest suspects as fast as possible".

No suspects in Saturday's bombing have yet been named, but Bahrain's interior ministry said it had begun an investigation.

Bahrain's justice minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa said yesterday his country's "war to restore security" would take place within the law and would proceed "without targeting anybody specifically," BNA reported.

*With additional reporting from Reuters