Source: Agence France Presse – Bahraini authorities arrested suspects who have returned from Syria and are allegedly linked to “terrorist” groups, the interior ministry said Friday.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, is among the countries that have joined the international coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Bahrain’s interior ministry announced that authorities have arrested “a group of people who were recently in Syria and are suspected of contacts with terrorist groups abroad.”
It said that investigations were ongoing, without giving further details in the statement carried by the official BNA news agency.
The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, is believed to have drawn in thousands of foreign fighters.
Sunni militants have flocked to Syria to support the rebels, while Shiite fighters – mainly from Lebanon and Iraq – support Assad’s forces.
The Syrian conflict “has attracted some Bahraini citizens,” the interior ministry acknowledged in February last year.
But it did not clarify whether it was referring to Sunni Islamists or to Shiites accused of links to Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside Assad’s troops.
Bahrain has been deeply divided since a 2011 uprising led by its Shiite majority against its Sunni monarchy, which brutally crushed the revolt.
Last month, the kingdom urged the international community to focus its efforts on combating the “evil theocracy” of jihadi groups such as ISIS.
“I call on you to discard the term ‘war on terror’ and focus on the real threat which is the rise of this evil theocracy,” said Bahrain’s crown prince, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
“We are fighting theocrats … We will be fighting these theocrats for a very long time,” said the prince.
Referring to the jihadis’ harsh and rigid interpretation of Islam, Prince Salman said: “The 17th century has no place in our modern 21st.”