Iran Widens It’s Influence In Bahrain In Attempt To Over through Their Goverment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Exiled cleric points to Iran’s widening influence in Bahrain

A still image taken from a video provided by Bahraini security officials shows Bahraini forces raiding a speedboat manned by Shi’ite militant fugitives it says were heading for Iran from Bahrain’s northeastern coast, February 9, 2017. Bahraini security officials/Handout via REUTERS
By Noah Browning and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin | MANAMA/DUBAI

At a wake in Iran’s holy city of Qom in February, a small group of Bahraini emigres and clerics mourned a young militant killed in a gun battle with Bahrain’s security forces.

The eulogy was delivered by an exiled Bahraini cleric who has called for the island’s Shi’ite Muslim majority to uproot the Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy in a holy war.

“The choice of resistance is widening and spreading on the ground,” said the cleric, Murtada al-Sanadi, who has been named by the United States as a “specially designated global terrorist” backed by Iran.

The ceremony shines a light on Iran’s widening influence over an armed fringe of the opposition in Bahrain, a country with a strategic value that belies its small size. It hosts a U.S. naval base and is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main regional rival. A quickening tempo of mostly crude bombing and shooting attacks has accompanied a government crackdown, which culminated last year in the dissolution of the main opposition bloc.

The dead 29-year-old militant, Reda al-Ghasra, was shot and killed when security forces ambushed the speedboat carrying him and fellow fugitives at dawn on February 9. Ghasra had just a few weeks earlier escaped from a prison where he was serving a life sentence for terrorism.

Ghasra’s two brothers, both wanted on militant charges, also appeared at his wake in Qom. They played a recorded phone call of Reda saying his boat was on its way. The Bahraini government has asserted he was fleeing to Iran.

A confidential assessment by Bahrain security officials, reviewed by Reuters, names Sanadi as the leader of the Ashtar Brigades, a militant group that has carried out bombings and shootings directed at the kingdom’s police. In a statement online, the group hailed Ghasra as a “martyr commander” on his death.

According to the security assessment, Sanadi tasked Ghasra with forming militant cells with Iranian help.

Iran’s foreign ministry called Bahraini government accusations that Iran had any role in supporting Sanadi or the Ashtar Brigades in violent acts “baseless and fabricated.” Sanadi did not respond to requests for comment.

 

SUPREME LEADER

An uprising by some in Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority was quelled in 2011 with the help of a Saudi intervention.

Low-level protests followed. Clashes with police killed scores of activists and suspected militants, while Bahrain says 24 of its officers have been killed. Most clashes involve youths throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, but there has been a series of bombings in recent years. Opposition activists say these attacks show that a government crackdown is pushing Shi’ite youths into the arms of extremists.

An analysis of years of statements by Bahrain’s public prosecutor on Ashtar Brigades suspects suggests that the group operates in cells of fewer than 10 young men overseen by emigre militants like Sanadi based in Iran.

Recruited on religious pilgrimages or study trips to Iran, Bahrain’s prosecutor has said, the suspects were given weapons and explosives training in Iran or neighbouring Iraq. Iran denies the accusation.

Sanadi has powerful allies in Iran, where he has lived since he went into exile in 2012.

The official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei published an editorial by Sanadi in December accusing the U.S. of helping repress Shi’ite activism in Bahrain.

The U.S. State Department put Sanadi on its proscribed “terrorist” list on March 17. His name appears alongside leaders in al Qaeda and Islamic State. The U.S. cited Sanadi’s links to the Ashtar Brigades which, it said, “receives funding and support from the Government of Iran.”

Bahrain accuses Sanadi of having organized deadly attacks on police and smuggling arms from Iran.

According to Bahraini security dossiers on Ghasra and Sanadi reviewed by Reuters, Bahraini authorities consider the Ashtar Brigades to be the armed wing of Sanadi’s Islamic Wafa Movement, a political party that is banned in Bahrain.

Wafa and the Ashtar Brigades did not respond to requests for comment about their relationship. A Wafa party representative contacted by Reuters agreed to relay questions to Sanadi but did not ultimately reply.

Sanadi, the security documents say, receives funding from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commissioned Ghasra to organize the military training of Bahraini militants in Iran by the IRGC and in Iraq by the Hezbollah Brigades militia.

The Ashtar Brigades announced an alliance with the Iran-backed Hezbollah Brigades via an online statement in February.

Sanadi spoke of his relationship with Ghasra in a communication to his followers on messaging app Telegram, dated in March and seen by Reuters. “I found him a lover of (Shi’ites), ready for the highest sacrifice and dedicated to the choice of resistance.”

Ghasra’s brother Yasser, speaking to Reuters from Iran, acknowledged that his brother Reda was a fighter but denied he received Iranian help. He declined to comment on links between his brother and Sanadi.

 

PROUD TO BE AN ENEMY

Speaking to Iranian state TV channel al-Alam in March Sanadi said: “I’m proud that America considers me an enemy.”

While not commenting directly on the state department accusations, he said the U.S. was using “so-called terrorism and … an imaginary danger they claim is coming from the Islamic Republic of Iran” to sell arms to Gulf allies and maintain influence.

Sanadi is the only official of his party to have eluded a long-term jail sentence, though he spent six months behind bars amid 2011 protests on rioting charges.

Six months later he departed legally for Iran.

Chronicling his experiences in a prison manifesto called “Pain and Hope” published in Iran last year, he said he suffered torture and watched fellow detainees killed at the hands of Jordanian and other foreign officers he scorns as “mercenaries.”

Bahraini security officials denied to Reuters that Sanadi suffered torture in custody. “There have been isolated abuses which have been investigated and addressed but this is not a systematic phenomenon,” said one official

In January, Sanadi called on Bahrain’s opposition to abandon mostly peaceful protests in public squares and to take up arms. “From today and hereafter, the period has changed. We in the Islamic Wafa Movement announce that we have begun a new phase as a tribute to the martyrs: one grip on the squares and one grip on the trigger!” he said in a speech in Qom.

Iran’s promotion of Sanadi appears to point to an endorsement of his agenda. Next to an Iranian flag and a banner reading “Death to the House of Saud,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s rulers, Sanadi delivered a sermon at Friday prayers in the country’s most prestigious mosque in Qom in September – an exceptional honor.

Sanadi also took to the main stage at a 2013 conference of Ahl al-Bayt, a Qom-based global fraternity of scholars founded by Khamenei in 1990. The meeting commemorated Bahrain’s uprising. “We are truly thankful to the Iranians, especially the leader of all Muslims, Ayatollah Khamenei,” Sanadi declared.

For his part, Iran’s Supreme Leader in a speech last summer warned that Bahrain government moves against top opposition figures was “removing an obstacle in front of the passionate, heroic Bahraini youth to fight against the ruling system.”

(edited by Janet McBride)

Bahrain Arrests 54 Members Of Iran-Linked Terrorist Cell

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Middle East

Bahrain Arrests Iran-Linked Terror Cell

 Bahrain goes through its fourth parliament election next month. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Manama – Bahrain said on Saturday it had uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked terror cell suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organizing a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons.

The organization includes 12 defendants in Iran and Iraq, another one in Germany and 41, including the 10 convicts who had escaped from prison, in Bahrain.

Manama frequently accuses Iran of fomenting civil unrest and supporting attacks against security forces, allegations which Tehran has long denied.

It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied kingdom, where the US Fifth Fleet is based.

Chief of Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed al-Hammadi has revealed the existence of a terrorist organization comprising 54 members.

Hammadi added that 25 members of the cell who had carried out acts of terror had been arrested and that the investigations by the Public Prosecution were still ongoing.

“The Public Prosecution had received a report from the General Director of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science on the search and investigation efforts regarding the escape of 10 convicts from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw on January 1, 2017 and which resulted in the death of a policeman from the prison guards force,” Hammadi announced.

Hamadi stressed that the investigations revealed that the movements of the terrorists to other countries were coordinated by one of the cell leaders based in Germany.

The leader made the arrangements for several members to go to Iran and Iraq to receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps ahead of carrying out their terrorist crimes in Bahrain.

The leaders and members of the organization had prepared and made plans for a number of terrorist crimes in order to disrupt public order, endanger the safety of the Kingdom, put its security at risk, undermine national unity and obstruct public authorities from carrying out their work, Hammadi added.

Advocate General stressed that, based on the information confirmed by the investigations and the sufficient and acceptable evidence about the crime details and the perpetrators, the Public Prosecution issued a warrant to inspect the locations identified by the confessions and testimonies in order to seize the explosives, firearms, ammunition, documents and tools related to the crimes and stored by the suspects.

Public Prosecution inspected the crime scenes, confiscated all the seized items and ordered the competent technical authorities to examine the evidence and draft reports.

He added that the security authorities arrested several suspects in accordance with the provisions of the law that protect society from acts of terrorism.

The suspects were referred to the public prosecutor who questioned them in accordance with the prescribed legal procedures.

Advocate General also said that the investigations and the confessions of the suspects revealed the facts about the establishment of the terrorist organization and its composition as well as how the fugitives in Iran and Iraq communicated with its members in the Kingdom in the prison and outside to recruit other elements and provide them with explosives, firearms and ammunition of various kinds that had been smuggled into the country.

They also provided them with the necessary funds for their livelihood and for the activities of the organization and coordinated with the fugitive leader in Germany to arrange the travel of some members to Iran to be trained on the use of explosives and firearms in the Revolutionary Guard camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist crimes in Bahrain.

The members provided them with plans to commit terrorist operations, the means to prepare their implementation, the weapons and explosives as well as the means to film them with drones to broadcast them for propaganda purposes.

Regarding the explosives, firearms and ammunition found in a boat in the Nabih Saleh area, investigations revealed they were part of the schemes by the leaders and members of the terrorist organization to smuggle them from Iran and Iraq into Bahrain via the sea and to use them in their terrorist crimes.

Hamamdi added that the breakout from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw was planned in order to enable the terror convicts to escape and carry out attacks in Bahrain and, for some of them, to go abroad and join the organization leaders in Iran and Iraq.

The jail break, carried out with the assistance of four members of the organization from outside the prison, resulted in the escape of 10 convicts and the martyrdom of one policeman.

In the shooting of a policeman in the Bani Jamra area case, investigations revealed that the terrorist crime was committed by a number of the organization members who were not among the prison fugitives.

The attack was committed as part of the organization’s activities under the instructions of its leaders abroad to disrupt public order and to target policemen.

Hammadi stressed that the murder of a police officer in the Bilad al-Qadeem area was plotted by one of the organization’s leaders in Iran and a member in Bahrain.

The murderer who knew the personal and professional status of the victim monitored his movements before killing him with a machine gun supplied by the organization’s leaders.

Regarding the case of resisting the authorities and shooting police officers in Bahrain’s territorial waters, Hammadi said that it was in the context of an attempt to smuggle ten accused members of the organization abroad.

The individuals being smuggled out included a convicted fugitive from the Jaw prison, three who participated in carrying out the jailbreak and the organization member who killed the police officer.

The police warned the suspects who responded by opening fire on them. Yet, the policemen were forced to exchange fire with the suspects, killing three of them and wounding others.

The defendants indicated to the investigators the locations where they hid the explosives and firearms that had been supplied by the organization’s leaders abroad for use in terrorist crimes.

The Public Prosecution subsequently issued warrants to seize all the items discovered in the hideouts, including the firearm which had been taken from a police officer during the escape from the Jaw prison.

The investigations resulted in the seizure of large quantities of explosives, detonators, grenades, firearms, automatic machine guns, guns, and ammunition of 7 guns, 4 Kalashnikovs, 292 bullets, 19 explosive devices, 11 ammunition cartridge holders, 96 detonators and a drone. Cars and boats used in terrorist crimes and smuggling operations were also seized.

The investigations carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department also revealed that one of the organization leaders, currently in Iran, continued his criminal and terrorist activities and plots against Bahrain.

He assisted many terrorist fugitives in Iran and Iraq with forming, in previous years, groups and cells in Bahrain that were eventually busted.

He was also involved in alliances with terrorist elements and fugitives belonging to various terrorist groups in Iran and Iraq to set up a terrorist group in Bahrain. The terrorist had been sentenced in several cases.

Hamadi said that the Public Prosecution has completed the questioning of 25 defendants who were involved in the operations, contributed to them or sheltered fugitives.

Other fugitives who were mentioned in the investigations or in the confessions of the defendants are still at large.

Public Prosecution levelled 16 charges against the defendants, including joining a terrorist group, training in the use of explosives and firearms to commit terrorist crimes, killing two police officers, attempting to kill police officers, and importing, smuggling and possessing explosives and weapons that may not be licensed in any way with the intention of using them in activities to disrupt public peace and order.

They were also charged with causing damages, robbery, resisting law-enforcement authorities, escaping from prison following legal arrest, and helping terrorists escape and sheltering them.

Only four of the defendants denied the charges while the others admitted them, Hamadi said.

The investigations by the Public Prosecution included a re-enactment of the crimes at the scenes and testimonies from several witnesses.

Public Prosecution remanded the defendants in custody pending further investigations and referred them to the forensic doctors for the necessary medical examination. It also referred the seized items to technical experts for reports.

Public Prosecution is also in the process of gathering testimonies from other witnesses and questioning suspects mentioned in the confessions of the defendants. The boats and cars used in the incidents were confiscated.

The investigations by the Public Prosecution are going on throughout the day in order to finish all details and prepare the case documents, Hamadi said.

Iran has not yet responded to the chief prosecutor’s claims, according to Associated Press news agency.