Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said on Sunday that it has dismantled an Iran-backed group that planned terrorist attacks in the island kingdom, including assassination of high-profile government officials. According to state-run Bahrain News Agency, 11 of the 14 individuals arrested are suspected of having received training in Iraq by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and Lebanese Hezbollah. The report adds that the arrests were made following intelligence operations that tracked the suspects’ multiple trips to Iran. The Ministry of Interior further alleged that the group operated under the leadership of Murtadha Majeed Al Sindi and Qassim Abdullah Ali, two individual who reportedly live in Iran and are designated as terrorist by the Bahraini government.
The reaction from Tehran was swift. Bahram Ghassemi, the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, rejected the allegations as “lies” and urged Manama to refrain from blaming Iran and instead address Bahrainis’ human rights concerns – particularly the arrest of Shiite leaders. “It is surprising that Bahraini authorities are insisting on repeating their baseless, fabricated and counterproductive claims and accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he told reporters on Monday.
Comment: The government of Bahrain has repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of inciting violence against the Bahraini government and supporting groups that have attacked Bahraini security forces in recent years. Earlier this month, government authorities said they had arrested 25 members of an Iran-backed “terror cell” involved in recent attacks on the Bahraini security forces, including a deadly jail break in January. A statement released by the Bahraini government added that those arrested belonged to a 54-member group that went to Iran and Iraq to “receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at Revolutionary Guard camps." Last month, Bahrain had announced the arrest of several individuals who had reportedly received military training in Iran and Iraq. “As part of the search and investigation that led to the foiling of the fleeing fugitives via the sea to Iran on February 9, a number of terror cells that were about to carry out terrorist plots have been dismantled through a comprehensive security plan,” Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
The latest reports of an Iranian connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain are certainly worrisome to the U.S. military as its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the U.S. Navy to ensure the security of maritime activity in the region, support the fight on terrorism, and monitor Iran’s subversive activities across the Middle East.