MANAMA: A bomb killed two policemen and wounded six in the deadliest such attack in Bahrain in months, and state media said the explosives resembled some seized at the weekend that authorities say were smuggled in from Iran. Sunni-ruled Bahrain has long accused Iran of stirring up unrest among its Shiite population and tensions between the two sides have risen in recent days, with Bahrain recalling its ambassador from Tehran on Saturday.
A nuclear deal reached this month between Tehran and global powers has also set its Gulf Arab neighbors on edge, who fear less foreign pressure on Iran due to the deal could embolden its foreign policy on their turf. HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday sent a cable to Bahraini Monarch King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa expressing his condolences over the victims of the blast.
The Amir affirmed Kuwait’s strong stance with Bahrain against such terrorist attacks, adding that Bahrain has the right to implement all measures to protect its national security. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem and several MPs strongly also condemned the attack.
Ghanem sent his condolences to the Bahraini people and expressed the solidarity of the Kuwaiti people with Bahrain against terrorist attacks. The bombing outside a girls’ school in the Shiite village of Sitra was the first in Bahrain for several months, and the worst since March 2014, when a blast killed three policemen. Iranian officials have not commented on yesterday’s bombing. Tehran denies interference in Bahrain but openly supports opposition groups seeking greater rights for the Shiite majority. Sporadic violence aimed at Bahraini security forces has become the norm since mass, Shiite-led pro-democracy protests were put down by the government in 2011.
Yesterday’s blast also wounded six policemen, two critically, two of whom are stable in intensive care, and two who have been discharged, state news agency BNA reported. The force of the blast ripped a large hole in the wall of the school, which was closed for the summer holidays, a Reuters witness said. Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition movement, condemned the attack in a statement on its website, saying “such acts are alien to the wide peaceful popular movement which is demanding a democratic transition in Bahrain”. Sunni Gulf rulers are also deeply critical of Iranian involvement in regional conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and accuse Tehran of contributing to the increasingly bitter sectarian rift between Sunnis and Shiites.
In a message posted on his Twitter account, Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, suggested there was no difference between Sunni or Shiite Islamist militants, adding: “Their goal is the same, and their reference point is Iran”. BNA said the explosives were similar to those seized by security forces on Saturday, which the government says were smuggled into the country by two Bahrainis with links to Iran. The cargo intercepted off the country’s coast included nearly 44 kg of C-4 plastic explosives and detonators, along with assault rifles and ammunition. Bahrain also recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations on Saturday after what it said were repeated hostile statements made by Iranian officials. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Sunday for a united front among Middle Eastern nations to fight militancy during a visit to Kuwait.
Iran’s role in the region was unpredictable due to internal divisions, said Aimen Dean, Managing Director of the Five Dimensions consultancy. “There is one foreign policy pursued by (President Hassan) Rouhani and Zarif, and another pursued by the IRGC and the Qods Force,” he said, referring to powerful revolutionary factions not accountable to the elected government. — Agencies