Bahrain arrests 8 'terrorists' fleeing to Iran by speedboat

AFP , Sunday 5 Jun 2016

Bahrain's coast guard arrested eight men convicted or wanted on "terrorism" charges as they tried to escape to Iran by speedboat, the Bahraini news agency reported on Sunday.

The men were intercepted along with two smugglers after setting off from the tiny Gulf kingdom towards the Iranian coast, the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said.

The agency published the men's names and said that seven had been sentenced to between 10 to 15 years in prison for "terrorism" activity and the eighth one was wanted also on terrorism charges, it said.

The men's attempt to cross the 193 kilometre (120 mile) stretch of water to the Iranian coast was planned by two Bahraini fugitives, BNA said.

One of the men has been convicted to life and the other to 10 years in prison, it said, adding that both had escaped previously to Iran.

The incident follows a jailbreak late on Friday in which 17 prisoners fled Al-Hadd jail near the dry dock on the island of Muharraq, east of the capital Manama.

On Saturday security forces recaptured 11 of the inmates, the interior ministry said but gave no indication of whether they were common criminals or political prisoners jailed in a sweeping five-year-old crackdown on dissent among the kingdom's Shiite majority.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain lies across the Gulf from Iran and is home to the US Navy's Fifth fleet. Relations between the two neighbours are tense and Manama has repeatedly accused Tehran of interfering in its affairs and inciting violence in the country. Bahrain has been shaken by unrest since its Sunni minority rulers crushed a month-long, Shiite-led uprising demanding reforms in 2011.

Despite the crackdown, protesters frequently attack police in Shiite villages outside the capital Manama. Bahraini courts have sentenced suspects convicted of violence to long prison sentences, while authorities regularly blame "terrorists" with alleged Iranian backing for stirring up unrest in the country.

Manama denies it discriminates against Bahraini Shiites, but members of the community are currently in prison including opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.

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