How Many Terror Cells Must Bahrain Bust?

Given the size of Bahrain – an island covering some 600 sq km – its government seems to be in a bind. Since February 2011 the kingdom has been facing fitful attempts by a string of terror outfits to disrupt social harmony, tear into its social fabric and hurt its economy. The trouble is, the security authorities bust and dismantle one outfit and suddenly another rears its ugly head.

It seems a vicious, endless cycle. And these outfits manage to exist and operate with impunity. Their existence is thanks to sustenance, training and funds provided by their handlers and masters sitting in the official echelons of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

The latest in the long line of such outfits is the misleadingly-titled Manama Human Rights Observatory. An organization activist, Ebtisam Al Sayegh, is among those arrested for sabotage. Prosecutors have charged the outfit with “obstructing the law, preventing the state from exercising its responsibilities, assaulting personal freedom and harming national unity.” It was also involved in violence against security personnel and disseminating false information designed to undermine national security.

The members of this particular cell follow Hezbollah’s ideology and maintain direct links with Hezbollah officials in Lebanon and with other listed terrorists being sheltered in Iran. Some of the latter have been designated terrorists by the US while others live in London or Berlin.

bahraini with hezbolla.
Bahraini With Hezbolla.

Investigations have shown the founder of the Manama Human Rights Observatory received support for its activities from Lebanese Hezbollah through a Bahraini national who worked for the terror group and resided in Lebanon. Emails and messages intercepted in the course of investigations point to coordination and cooperation between the Bahrain-based Hezbollah cell and a high-ranking Hezbollah official.

To quote the Bahraini prosecutors, “Ebtisam Al Sayegh was in close contact with the radical groups like Tayar Al Wafa and Tayar al Haq, as well as members of Saraya Al Ashtar based in Berlin and London. Moreover, Al Sayegh has worked closely with Al Karama foundation, whose founder was previously listed by the US Treasury Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Baqer Darwish, another cell member, is a Bahraini national based in Lebanon with connections to Hezbollah and other militia leaders.”

The activities of these individuals pose a direct threat to Bahrain’s national security and that of its allies in the region. Qatar, lately a close ally of Iran, on the contrary, is harbouring and financing various extremist outfits including Hezbollah. This is the reason Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have placed embargoes on Doha.

The tragedy of today’s journalism is that issues are reported largely not on their merit as news per se but as news that can grab popular attention spanning a large swathe of readership/ viewership. Remember how everyone from BBC and CNN downwards had descended on Bahrain in the wake of the Arab Spring that failed by the time it reached the island state in 2011?

That the remnants of old extremist and terrorist outfits in their new avatars continue to raise their heads every now and then needs to be noticed by international agencies and governments and shamed and condemned.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.