Terror cell captured in Bahrain; Planned attacks on Fifth Fleet

Monday, February 17, 2003

ABU DHABI Bahrain has arrested a terrorist cell that planned to stage attacks against U.S. military personnel and facilities including the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Western diplomatic sources said Bahraini's domestic intelligence service arrested a five-member cell that included at least two members of the kingdom's military. The sources said the arrests took place on Friday.

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for U.S. naval activity in the Persian Gulf and is expected to play a major role in any war against Iraq. U.S. officials said the Fifth Fleet was on heightened alert last week. They said the alert was lowered over the weekend after the Sunni Muslims were arrested.

The investigation is focusing on any links the suspects had with either Al Qaida or Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.

The diplomatic sources said the suspects are not members of the Shi'ite Muslim majority in Bahrain. Over the last decade, most of the suspects connected to anti-government unrest and attacks were identified as Shi'ites with links to Iran.

The Sunni suspects were identified as Bahraini nationals. They names released on Saturday were Mohieddin Mahmood Mohieddin Khan, a 41-year-old Lebanese native; Bassam Abdulrazzaq Abdulla Bukhowa, 32, Bassam Yousif Abdul Karim Ali, born in 1965; Isa Abdulla Abdul Rahman Al Balouchi, a 30-year-old Saudi native; and Jamal Hilal Mohammed Al Balouchi, 38.

Over the last year, thousands of Bahraini nationals, including parliamentarians, have called for the end to the U.S. military presence in the kingdom.

"Security forces arrested a cell which was planning terrorist attacks after receiving information on their movement which targeted national interests in the kingdom and the lives of innocent nationals," a Bahraini security official told the Bahraini News Agency on Saturday.

The news agency said security forces captured ammunition and weapons, which included pistols and AK-47 Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifles. The official said authorities are seeking to determine whether the suspects are "linked to groups inside or outside Bahrain."

"Investigations have started with this terrorist group to find out if they belong to certain political organizations or if they were working alone," the official said.

But the U.S. embassy in Manama maintained an advisory that urged Americans to consider leaving Bahrain.

"Private U.S. citizens should evaluate rigorously their own security situation and should consider departing," the advisory said.

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