Bahrain swoops on opposition youth group: interior ministry

AFP , Thursday 13 Jun 2013

Bahraini authorities detain members of the Shia opposition February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, the main force behind the 2011 uprising in the country

File photo: Anti-government protesters waving Bahraini flags (Photo: Reuters)

Bahraini authorities announced Thursday they have identified and arrested leading members of the radical Shia opposition February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, an influential clandestine cyber-group accused of links to Iran.

"After an extensive investigation, several members of the February 14 terrorist organisation were identified ... (and) the main actors who took part in criminal acts have been arrested," the interior ministry said in a statement.

The February 14 Coalition has been the main motor behind a Shia-led uprising that began in 2011 to demand more rights from the ruling Sunni dynasty.

The ministry identified the group's spiritual leader as Hadi Al-Mudaressi, a leading Shia cleric living in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. He "provided divisive sectarian support to the organisation," it said.

It named 11 of those arrested, saying they had played prominent roles in the coalition inside Bahrain, and said other members were still being sought.

The ministry also named 13 people it said were leading the coalition from abroad, some of whom are based in London.

Among these, it said, is Saeed Abdulnabi Al-Shahabi, "who is responsible for coordination with Iranian leaders."

Shahabi is a radical Shia opposition leader who has been sentenced to life in prison in absentia for his role in the 2011 uprising.

"They frequently travel between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to obtain financial and moral support as well as weapons training," the ministry statement said.

Members contact leaders in Iran "to receive direct financial support and field instructions," it added.

"The information presented shows the active role [played by the group] in incitement and terror acts and the support that is provided by extremist religious and political leaders from outside and inside Bahrain," said the statement.

Bahrain also accused Lebanese Shia movement Hizbullah — listed as a "terrorist organisation" by the kingdom — and "extremists" in Iraq of interfering in its internal security affairs.

Tehran, which has repeatedly criticised the kingdom's crackdown on protesters, denies it is backing the uprising.

Bahrain's Shias, mainly in response to calls by the February 14 Coalition, continue to demonstrate in their villages, frequently clashing with police.

A total of 80 people have been killed since protests in Bahrain erupted, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

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