Bahrain said Wednesday it had dismantled an Iran-linked “terror” cell that was planning attacks in the kingdom, amid a growing diplomatic crisis between Gulf Arab states and Tehran over the execution by Saudi Arabia of a leading Shiite cleric.
The cell was allegedly linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah militia and planning to carry out a “series of dangerous bombings” in the tiny Sunni-ruled kingdom, an interior ministry statement said.
Members of the “secret terrorist organization” have been identified, and many arrested, said the statement on the official BNA news agency, adding that others remain at large.
Among those arrested were 33-year-old twins Ali and Mohammed Fakhrawi, who were identified as leaders of the group.
The cell is allegedly linked to the little-known Al-Ashtar Brigades, which has reportedly claimed responsibility for bombings in the Shiite-majority kingdom, including one outside a Sunni mosque in 2013.
It is also linked to suspects involved a July 28 bombing that killed two policemen and wounded six others.
Al-Ashtar Brigade, as well as Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, are on Bahrain’s list of “terrorist groups.”
The twins have traveled to Iran on several occasions to obtain financial and logistical support, relying on their relations with “terrorist elements” with strong ties with the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, the statement said.
Ali Fakhro and two other suspects also met in 2012 with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy who, Bahrain said, offered them “$20,000 (18,520 euros) in support of their organization.”
The tiny but strategic US ally has seen frequent unrest since a Shiite-led uprising erupted in 2011, demanding a constitutional monarchy.
Bahrain frequently accuses Tehran of backing the unrest.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as tensions widened between Saudi Arabia and Iran after protesters torched the kingdom’s diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic following the Saturday execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in protest at the attacks on Sunday and has severed air links with Iran.
Some of its allies among Sunni Arab states followed suit, with Bahrain and Sudan breaking off ties and the United Arab Emirates downgrading relations.
Kuwait said it was withdrawing its envoy to Iran, while Oman and Qatar have condemned the attacks without taking any measures.
Saudi Arabia accused Iran on Saturday of sponsoring “terrorism,” recalling Iran-linked cells that have been uncovered smuggling explosives and arms to Bahrain and Kuwait.