x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Bahraini authorities blame opposition in failed plot

Bahrain yesterday accused opposition leaders based in London of masterminding and training the terrorist cell.

Manama // Bahraini authorities yesterday accused opposition leaders based in London of masterminding and training the terrorist cell that had allegedly been planning to carry out bombings during the National Day celebrations here this month. During a press conference in Manama, Bahrain's minister of interior, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, also said some of the 14 people arrested in the plot had received military training in Syria during July and August.

One of the suspects, who are all Bahrainis and believed to be Shiites, was turned over to the Bahraini government by Interpol from the UAE. "They travelled under the mask of visiting religious sites in Syria where they were met by a Bahraini living in London, who arranged and carried out their intensive training programme on how to make bombs and explosives," Sheikh Rashid said. "The site of the training included others in masks undergoing training while the trainers were unmasked."

According to Sheikh Rashid, the masterminds behind the foiled plot are two Bahrainis living in London with one residing there under the umbrella of political asylum. While he did not name the two ring leaders, sources said they are believed to be the leader of the Bahrain Freedom Movement in London and the former head of the Bahrain Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee. "The suspects confessed that their leadership came under the two Bahrainis who reside in Britain and that they were the ones who arranged for their recruitment and training," Sheikh Rashid said.

"They also revealed that the Bahraini leaders in Britain were planning to smuggle a large quantity of weapons to Bahrain for use in acts of violence, sabotage and terrorism to disrupt security and public order." He said Bahrain had contacted the British and Syrian governments to ensure that their countries were not used as launching grounds for such terrorist groups. "We informed the security services in Syria of our findings and asked them to send specialists so we could provide them with the available information and facts so they can take whatever action necessary to prevent the use of Syrian territory in the training of terrorist acts," he said.

"We also have alerted the British authorities to the seriousness of the activities by the two Bahraini suspects living in Britain, which threaten the security of Bahrain." He called for stiffer punishments in terrorism cases and the toughening of current legislation to deter such groups and ensure security. Hafed Ali, who is part of the defence team representing the 14 suspects, declined to comment about case.

He did, however, criticise the minister's call for tougher laws, pointing out that his clients were being charged under the recently adopted antiterror law, which has harsher punishments than the criminal code. The announcement of the arrests in the case came just a few hours before arsonists set ablaze an electricity substation on the King Faisal motorway, one of the busiest streets in the capital and at a time when Shiite villages and capital suburbs were witnessing heavy clashes with police. No one has claimed responsibility for the power station arson and officials did not officially link it to the recently uncovered plot.

The clashes erupted after police cordoned-off a section of the city to prevent a march called for by the opposition on the day remembering alleged martyrs and victims of the unrest in the Gulf island during the early 1980s and mid 1990s. Bahrain, a close US ally and home to its 5th Fleet Command, had also been struggling for the past few years with Sunni sympathisers who express support to the resistance groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several cases have been brought forward against Bahraini Sunnis for alleged links to terrorist groups, all of which have been debunked by local courts. Two other Bahraini Sunnis are awaiting trial on charges of training with and trying to finance terrorist groups. mmahdi@thenational.ae