DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain said on Saturday it had rounded up 116 members of an armed network established and supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, suspected of plotting attacks on Bahraini government officials and security forces.
Iran’s foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. But Iran has denied similar charges in the past.
The interior ministry in Bahrain said in a statement that investigators found sites used by the militants to manufacture and store explosives intended to be used for “terrorist attacks”.
Bahrain put down Arab Spring protests led by majority Shi’ite Muslims demanding reforms, but the Western-allied kingdom has faced a wave of bomb attacks by militants, whom the Sunni-led government says are trained and supported by Iran. Tehran denies the charges.
The island kingdom is strategically located in the Gulf between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran and is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain has stepped up a crackdown on dissent since 2016, shuttering the main opposition parties, jailing or stripping citizenship from prominent dissidents and putting the top Shi’ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.
“Comprehensive investigations revealed the suspected terrorists were members of a network formed and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC),” the Bahraini ministry statement said.
“The network was planning to target Bahraini officials, members of the security authorities and vital oil installations, with the objective of disturbing public security and harming the national economy,” it said.
The statement said that 48 of the 116 people arrested had received training at IRGC facilities in Iran and their affiliated locations in Iraq and Lebanon.
The items found included explosives materials, automatic weapons, pistols and magnetic bombs and grenades, the statement said.
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Bolton)