MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — An alleged Iranian-linked terror cell had contact with the Tehran's powerful Revolutionary Guard and planned attacks against high profile sites, including Saudi Embassy and a Gulf causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, authorities in Bahrain claimed Sunday.
The allegations from Bahrain's public prosecutor seek to strengthen charges of ties between the suspected underground group and Iran. Bahrain's Sunni leaders have accused Iran of encouraging Shiite-led protests that erupted in February on the island kingdom.
The report in the Bahrain News Agency, however, gave no further information on the suspects or other details to back up the allegations.
The accusations of links to the Revolutionary Guard — which is closely tied to Iran's ruling clerics — draws parallels with U.S. claims that an elite unit of the Guard was involved in a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Iran has denied the American charges.
Bahrain's majority Shiites insist they have no political links to Shiite power Iran. Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and its Gulf allies claim that Iran seeks to gain another foothold in the Arab world through unrest in the tiny strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
A Saudi-led Gulf military force was dispatched to Bahrain in March to aid the Sunni leadership.
More than 35 people have been killed since street clashes began nearly nine months ago. Protesters say they are seeking greater rights and an end to the Sunni dynasty's hold on top political decisions. Bahrain's rulers have offered some compromises, such as expanding the powers of parliament, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.
Authorities have sentenced dozens of people for anti-state crimes like trying to overthrow the ruling system. The case of the alleged terror cell is the first time officials are trying to prove a direct link to Iran and plans to carry out attacks. The suspected targets included Bahrain's Interior Ministry.
The public prosecutor's office also claimed the alleged terror group had links with anti-government figures in exile, including Ali Mushaima, whose father Hassan has been sentenced to life in prison on charges of links to the protests and violence.
The report Sunday said the five suspects have been ordered held in custody for 60 days while investigations continue.
Authorities on Saturday said four suspects were arrested in nearby Qatar. The fifth was detained in Bahrain.
The accusations come before next week's schedule release of an independent investigation into reported abuses by security forces and others during the height of the clashes.