On Wednesday, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry announced that the country’s security forces have arrested four members of a “terrorist cell” involved in a bomb attack on an oil pipeline and claimed that the suspects had received training in Iran by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). According to Al-Khaleej Online, the suspects were behind the pipeline explosion that occurred on November 10 near Buri village close to the Bahraini capital city of Manama. A statement released by the ministry alleged that the members of the group responsible for the bomb attack had received training in Iran in how to manufacture and use explosive devices and firearms. “The terrorists in Bahrain are recruited and their expenses for travelling to Iran are covered under the excuse of going on religious visits,” wrote the state-run Bahrain News Agency. “Their training included making and using bombs, using different types of guns such as Kalashnikovs and PKCs as well as rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). They also attended special security courses in which they were assigned to carry out attacks to harm the Kingdom’s economy and its oil pipeline,” it added.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry today rejected Manama’s allegations as “baseless” and called on the Bahrain government not to “externalize” its domestic problems.
Comment: It is not the first time that Manama accuses Tehran of plotting attacks against the island kingdom. Last month, Bahrain’s interior minister said Tehran and its regional proxies were supporting militant groups that carry out terrorist actions on the Bahraini soil. Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa specifically accused the IRGC, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-linked Iraqi militia groups of sponsoring “terrorist groups” to destabilize Bahrain. He added that the Bahraini security forces had carried out 105 pre-emptive operations and arrested 47 members of three terrorist organizations. Many of those arrested are reportedly from the Saraya al-Ashtar, Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya and Saraya al-Mukhtar groups. The Iranian government, rejected the allegations as “unfounded.”
In November, Manama blamed Iran for the pipeline explosion. According to the Bahraini Interior Ministry, the blast was the latest example of a “terrorist act” under instructions from Tehran, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported. In a Twitter message, the minister also called the attack a “dangerous Iranian escalation aimed at terrorizing citizens and damaging the world’s oil industry.” The explosion forced Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend pumping oil into Bahrain for security reasons.
Last year, Bahraini officials also complained that the IRGC supported groups that attacked Bahraini security forces. In late March, for example, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said it 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 were suspected of having received training in Iraq by the IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah. The report added 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.
In February, Bahrain had also 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) had reported.
The reports of Iran’s alleged connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain have not only further strained relations between Tehran and Manama but they are also worrisome to the US military as its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the US 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.