DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain has named a Bahraini citizen who lives in Iran as a main suspect in what it called planned “terrorist acts” and said he and his collaborators had received training and other help from Tehran.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said last Monday it had foiled an attempt to smuggle arms and explosives, some made in Iran and Syria, into the country by boat.
The Gulf Arab kingdom has been rattled by bouts of unrest since February 2011, when protests led by members of its Shi‘ite majority population demanded that the Sunni ruling family give up ultimate power to an elected parliament.
Bahrain’s chief prosecutor Osama al-Oufi, cited by the state BNA news agency, said the suspect behind the smuggling operation, Ali Mafoudh al-Moussawi, was accused of “planning to commit terrorist acts and planting explosives targeting vital installations and sovereign and security locations”.
Moussawi recruited a number of people to be trained in Iran to carry out attacks and formed a group to smuggle the weapons and explosives into Bahrain, BNA said.
Several members of the group were arrested and confessed to having been trained by Iranians at camps for the Islamic Republic’s elite Revolutionary Guard, BNA said late on Thursday.
“The accused confessed that they had joined the group to... commit terrorist acts with religious motivations from their points of view,” Oufi said, according to BNA.
Other members of the group are still at large in Iran and Iraq, he said, adding that two of those arrested while trying to smuggle the arms spoke an Iraqi dialect of Arabic.
The Manama government, dominated for generations by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family, accuses Bahrain’s opposition of having a Shi‘ite sectarian agenda and links to Tehran and to Lebanese Shi‘ite militant group Hezbollah.
The opposition denies this, saying such allegations are a pretext for avoiding democratic reforms. Tehran also denies any link, but champions the cause of the opposition while Hezbollah has criticized Manama’s crackdown on Shi‘ite protesters.
In February, Bahrain accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guard of setting up a militant cell to assassinate public figures in the Gulf Arab kingdom and attack its airport and government buildings.
The Bahraini government largely put down the 2011 uprising with help from Gulf Arab neighbors but small-scale clashes continue and bomb attacks mainly on policemen and security officers have been increasing since mid-2012.
Bahrain’s Shi‘ite opposition groups suspended their participation in reconciliation talks with the government after the arrest of a senior member of al-Wefaq, the main opposition group, in September.
Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Gareth Jones