Bahrain has uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked militant group suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organising a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons.
It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in attacks on security forces in the kingdom.
Chief prosecutor Ahmed Al Hammadi said security forces arrested 25 members and seized 11 pistols and Kalashnikov rifles in a series of operations, including an attempted arms smuggling in December, state news agency BNA said.
Mr Al Hammadi also said an investigation into the January prison break revealed that a Germany-based leader of the group had helped organise trips for members from Bahrain to Iran and Iraq for training.
“The investigation revealed that ... several members [were sent] to Iran and Iraq to train on the use of explosives and automatic weapons in [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist acts inside the country,” Mr Al Hammadi said.
The group was suspected of involvement in six armed attacks, including the January assault on Jau prison that killed one policeman and led to the escape of 10 convicted inmates and the stealing of weapons, the report said.
Members of the group also killed an officer at his farm in Bilad Al Qadeem on January 28, and organised an attempt to smuggle the escaped Jau prison inmates abroad in February. Authorities said at the time that security forces killed three men and captured seven during a gun battle at sea as they tried to flee to Iran.
Bahrain frequently accuses Iran of being behind bomb attacks targeting security services and fomenting protests among the kingdom’s Shiite population.
Tensions have been rising in the kingdom since last year after authorities stepped up a crackdown on dissent, banning the main opposition group Al Wefaq.
Meanwhile, Iran said yesterday it had successfully tested a sophisticated Russian-made air defence system.
Iran’s advanced S-300 system was operational after a test during a recent military exercise called Damavand, the name of the country’s highest mountain.
It was conducted in Iran’s central desert in the presence of government and military officials.
State TV showed the missiles being launched from the backs of lorries and targeting various flying objects, including other rockets.
With a range of up to 200 kilometres, the S-300 is capable of tracking and striking several targets at once.
Air defence commander Gen Farzad Esmaili said that a domestically made air defence system called Bavar 373, which was “more advanced than the S-300”, would be tested very soon.
Iran had been trying to acquire the system for years to ward off repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear plants, but Russia suspended delivery in line with United Nations sanctions imposed over the nuclear programme.
* Reuters and Associated Press