Bahrain says Iran, Hezbollah behind "terror cell"
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Bahrain has accused Iran's Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah of setting up a militant cell to assassinate public figures in the Gulf Arab kingdom and attack its airport and government buildings.
Bahraini authorities said on Sunday they had arrested eight Bahrainis in the group, with links to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.
In a statement published by the official Bahrain News Agency late on Tuesday, Bahrain's head of public security said the cell was part of a group called the "Imam Army" which included Bahrainis at home and abroad and members of other nationalities.
It claimed an officer from Iran's Revolutionary guard, codenamed 'Abu Nasser' paid the suspects $80,000 to take photos of 'sensitive locations', and collect information on public figures in the country.
The kingdom, base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been in political turmoil since protests erupted there in 2011, demanding an end to the Sunni monarchy's political domination and full powers for parliament.
Bahrain has accused Iran of fueling the unrest, an accusation Tehran has consistently denied.
Authorities also implicated Lebanon's Hezbollah in the alleged "terror cell", claiming that suspects were trained in "Hezbollah facilities" in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Baghdad. They also traveled to Lebanon and Iran, they said.
"Members trained in use of weapons, explosives including C4, the writing of surveillance reports and the monitoring of targeted persons," said the statement.
The cell's planned targets included the Ministry of Interior and Bahrain International Airport, said General Tareq al-Hassan, who heads the general security agency.
Five of the detainees were arrested in Bahrain and three in Oman, General Hassan said, adding another four Bahrainis were being sought by the authorities.
Hassan said authorities had collected evidence in the form of papers and electronic documents, flashcards, phones, computers, cash and images of bank transactions.
On Monday Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, dismissed Sunday's news of the arrests.
"Unfortunately Bahraini officials are following a mistaken path," Iran's ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
He said Bahraini officials were "making accusations against various countries including Iran, and they imagine that in this way they can solve the problem they are encountering".
Bahraini authorities have led a sweeping crackdown on dissidents in the wake of a mass popular uprising that erupted in February 2011.
Saudi troops entered Bahrain in March 2011 to help crush the revolt against the Khalifa ruling family, but protests still occur almost daily.
Over 80 people have been killed by riot police, or while in custody, since the uprising began.