Bahrain thwarted a terror attack, backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), earlier this year, a statement released by the interior ministry yesterday says.
The statement was a clarification of the foiled attacks’ timescale in response to local media reports which implied the elaborate plot was new.
“We want to make clear that this case goes back to early 2020 and it is currently being looked into by the relevant court,” the statement was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The attack would have targeted diplomats and foreigners living in the Gulf island nation, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, as retaliation for the January assassination of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
The group was foiled, according to a report by Bahraini news site Akhbar Al Khaleej, after local security forces discovered an explosive device, planted to target a foreign delegation, in the Badei district.
Saudi Arabian state television also reported on the foiled attack, showing previously unaired footage of police raiding a home with a hidden passage, finding and seizing a cache of assault rifles and explosives, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Nine of the 18 people suspected of being part of the operations have been arrested, with the rest thought to be hiding in Iran. The group of 18 are thought to be members of a new organisation called the “Qassem Soleimani Brigade” which had planned the attack.
The Qassem Soleimani Brigade was also planning on carrying out several attacks on public and security structures in Bahrain, a report by Reuters claimed.
Meanwhile, Akhbar Al Khaleej linked the new organisation to the Al-Ashtar brigade, a militant Shia group loyal to the Iranian government that has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police, according to AP.
The announcement comes only one day after the chief of Iran’s IRGC threatened to exact revenge on anyone involved in Soleimani’s assassination.
The IRGC’s website quoted General Hossein Salami has saying, “our revenge for martyrdom of our great general is obvious, serious and real”.
Tensions between the US and Iran are running high after US President Donald Trump claimed his administration had re-invoked sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program, in a process known as “snapback”.
Meanwhile, Bahrain officially normalised relations with Israel, alongside the United Arab Emirates, in a deal brokered by the US last week.