Bahrain secures bridge used by Westerners fleeing Saudi Arabia

Friday, July 2, 2004

ABU DHABI Bahrain has increased security along the road that links the kingdom with Saudi Arabia after receiving an intelligence alert.

Officials said Bahraini authorities have bolstered police presence and patrols along the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Manama also ordered an increase in coast guard patrols around the 25-kilometer causeway.

The security alert was reported on June 23 amid an intelligence warning that Al Qaida might be planning to blow up the Saudi-Bahraini bridge.

Hundreds of Westerners have been leaving the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and entering into neighboring Bahrain via the bridge. The bridge has been used most by Saudi nationals who seek a quick get-away into the Western-style nightlife of Bahrain, Middle East Newsline reported.

"There is concern that Al Qaida operatives might be fleeing Saudi Arabia via the Causeway or planning attacks in Bahrain," a security source said.

More than 100 Bahraini police officers were now deployed on the Bahraini entry point to the bridge. They included security officers, police, SWAT teams and undercover agents.

Officials said Bahraini and Saudi authorities believe Al Qaida operatives have been using the King Fahd Causeway to support insurgency attacks in Saudi Arabia. Over the last 18 months, both Saudi and Bahraini nationals have been detained on suspicion of belonging to or supporting the Al Qaida network.

Saudi authorities have also increased security on their side of the bridge. Additional police were seen from the Bahraini side of the King Fahd Causeway.

On June 23, Bahraini authorities released six nationals detained the previous day and accused of plotting a major insurgency strike. In a 45-minute hearing, Bahraini prosecutors did not present any charges or evidence, Attorney General Sharif Shadi said.

"No charges have been pressed against any of the accused," Shadi said. "They have all been released without charge."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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