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Bahrain Says Raids Shut Down Militant Network Created By Iran

Authorities in the Sunni-ruled kingdom of Bahrain say they have arrested 116 members of an armed Shi'ite militant network that was established and supported by Iran.

The Interior Ministry said the alleged militants planned 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.”

"Comprehensive investigations revealed the suspected terrorists were members of a network formed and supported by” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the ministry said in a statement.

It said 48 of those detained had received training in camps belonging to Iran's IRGC and its armed wings in Iraq and Lebanon.

It said the IRGC and its affiliates, the Shi’ite militias Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq and Hizballah in Lebanon, supported and financed the organization.

The Interior Ministry said police also seized explosives and weapons in their raids, including automatic assault rifles, pistols, magnetic bombs, and grenades.

It did not say when the arrests had been made.

The announcement of the arrests on March 3 came amid an ongoing crackdown on all dissent on the island, which lies off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain, a Shi’ite Muslim majority country that is ruled by Sunni Muslims, regularly announces similar raids and blames Iran for instigating and training the alleged militants.

Tehran denies the accusations.

Bahrain has stepped up its crackdown on dissent since 2016, shutting down the main opposition parties, jailing or stripping citizenship from prominent dissidents, and placing a top Shi'ite spiritual leader under de facto house arrest.

Bahrain has seen a rise in violence since 2011 when Shi’ites carried out massive Arab Spring protests that were put down with the help of regional Sunni powers, led by Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain’s government denies that it discriminates against Shi’ites.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, BNA, AFP, and dpa