x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Police defuse roadside bomb outside Bahrain’s capital

Shiite opposition leader arrested and clerical council sued as unrest continues.

ABU DHABI // Bahraini security forces defused a homemade bomb on Tuesday in a town outside the capital.

Police learnt of the bomb after receiving a call at 8am that reported two suspicious objects in a road in Isa Town, the state news agency reported.

“The teams were immediately deployed and after examining the objects they found the first to be a fake bomb. The other was a gas cylinder with a detonator,” police were quoted as saying.

The explosive device was the latest in a string of homemade bombs found in the city, escalating a political conflict that was inflamed in 2011, when mostly Shiite protesters took to the streets.

The government has blamed the explosions on radical elements of the Shiite opposition, but Shiite political leaders have renounced violence and deny any involvement in the attacks.

In response to the deteriorating security, Bahrain’s elected legislature in June enacted tougher penalties, endorsed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, for anyone accused of terrorism.

Meanwhile yesterday, the deputy of Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition political society, Al Wefaq, was arrested.

Khalil Marzouq, who also was the group’s spokesman, was summoned to the public prosecution. Ali Alaswad, a London-based former MP from Al Wefaq, said Mr Marzouq had been charged with inciting violence to topple the regime over a speech he delivered last Friday.

Mr Marzouq was “summoned and referred to the public prosecution”, the interior ministry’s Twitter acount quoted the general director of the Northern Governorate Police as saying.

The move came after Bahrain’s justice ministry filed a suit against the Ulema Council, a hierarchy of Bahraini Shiite clerics, arguing that the group was operating outside the law and should be disbanded.

The ministry said the council had promoted a “so-called revolution” and had funded political societies espousing violence and sectarianism.

Al Wefaq said that it was holding meetings in response to the arrest and the lawsuit. The group said the moves were part of a government plan “to wipe out political action”.

“The targeting of Mr Marzouq is a worrying escalation against the peaceful moderate opposition,” said Mr Alaswad. “It is a clear signal from the authorities that they are not taking the search for a solution to the crisis seriously.”

edickinson@thenational.ae