Authorities in Bahrain said over the weekend that they had arrested 25 members of an Iran-backed “terror cell” involved in recent attacks on the Bahraini security forces, including a deadly jail break in January. A statement released by the Bahraini government added that those arrested belonged to a 54-member group that went to Iran and Iraq to “receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at Revolutionary Guard camps." Bahraini security forces said they also seized machine guns and explosive devices from the group. "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," Bahrain’s Chief Prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi pointed out.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry predictably denied the allegations as “baseless” and emphasized Iran had no connection with the group. “This is a common method employed by oppressive regimes that face problems with their people,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi.

Comment: Manama has repeatedly accused Tehran of inciting violence against the Bahraini government and supporting groups that have attacked Bahraini security forces in recent years. The new revelation comes after Bahraini authorities claimed last month they had dismantled a number of “terror cells” and arrested several individuals who 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) reported last month. “One of the arrestees admitted to killing First-Lt Hisham Al Hamadi who was shot dead in Bilad Al Qadeem on January 29. Two of the arrestees were involved in setting up secret bomb-making warehouses. An investigation revealed that eight of the arrestees had received military training on arms and the use of explosives in Iran and Iraq,” the outlet added. On February 9, Bahrain had announced that they had foiled an attempt by “terrorist fugitives” who, according to the country’s Ministry of Interior, had escaped from prison on January 1 and were heading to Iran by sea. At least one policeman was killed during the jailbreak.

But the new allegations about Iran-backed “terrorist cells” are likely to further escalate tension between Tehran and Manama. Iranian leaders and state-run media, particularly outlets affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), have recently intensified propaganda and incitement against the Bahraini government. I.R.G.C.-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, for example, wrote last month that the toppling of the Bahraini government was a “public call.”

Any Iranian connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain will also be closely watched by the U.S. military. The United States Navy has had a presence in Bahrain since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, and its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the U.S. 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.

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