Manhunt in Bahrain after jailbreak

Bahraini authorities intensify search for gunmen who stormed Jaw prison near Manama, freeing ten people held on terror­ism charges.

Inmates who escaped had all been convicted of terrorism-relat­ed charges

2017/01/08 Issue: 88 Page: 10

London - Bahraini authorities have intensified the search for gunmen who stormed Jaw prison near Manama, killing a policeman and freeing ten people held on terror­ism charges.

A force of up to six gunmen at­tacked the prison, one of Bahrain’s biggest, at 5.30am January 1st. One policeman was killed and a second officer suffered “moderate” inju­ries during the assault, authorities said.

The inmates who escaped had all been convicted of terrorism-relat­ed charges, mostly tied to violent anti-government protests and at­tacks on Bahraini security services, authorities said.

Jaw prison houses more than 2,400 inmates, including 1,000 convicted of terror-related offenc­es. Last June, 17 inmates broke out of Al-Hadd jail, east of Manama, but most were captured the next day.

Authorities in Manama suspend­ed three officials, including the Jaw prison director, and referred the case to the prosecutor’s office.

“The decision follows the rec­ommendations of an investigation committee that was set up by the Interior Minister to investigate the circumstances of the terrorist at­tack on the Reformation and Reha­bilitation Centre in Jaw on January 1st,” a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency said.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials labelled the attack on the prison an act of terrorism. In a statement a day after the prison break, GCC Secretary-General Ab­dul Latif al-Zayani condemned “the heinous act of terrorism” while affirming the GCC’s continu­ing support for Bahrain’s security. Kuwait’s cabinet and Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Foreign ministries is­sued similar statements of support.

The Arab League condemned the attack on the prison and expressed its support and solidarity in what it described as Bahrain’s “war on terror and refusal of foreign inter­ference in the Bahraini internal af­fairs”, a reference to Iran.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed that such interference undermines con­fidence in building constructive re­lations with Tehran.

“Iran is adamant on interfering in the internal affairs of Arab coun­tries and fuelling unrest by export­ing a heinous and sectarian-tainted mantra. Such a subversive policy undermines the confidence of Arab countries in the possibility of building normal and constructive relations with Iran on the basis of good neighbourhood and mutual respect,” Gheit said.

“No stability in the Middle East can be guaranteed without a total change in behaviour by Iran.”

Iran’s Ahl Al Bait channel de­scribed the individuals behind the prison break as “heroes”. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry accused the chan­nel of supporting terrorism.

“The channel gloated over the death of the fallen serviceman while performing his duty, describ­ing the runaway terrorist elements as ‘champions seeking freedom’,” a statement from the ministry said.

“This represents an additional evidence of Iranian direct support for the terror acts and reflects at the same time an Iranian persistence to interfere in the internal affairs of Bahrain.”

The GCC views Iran and its prox­ies, such as Hezbollah, as a cause of regional instability, pointing to situations in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain. Tensions were heightened last January when Ri­yadh severed diplomatic ties with Iran following the storming of its Tehran embassy by protesters an­gered at Saudi Arabia’s execution of a radical Shia cleric convicted of involvement in the killing of police.

This resulted in Saudi Arabia cancelling a $3 billion aid pack­age to the Lebanese Army over the Lebanese government’s failure to condemn the attacks on the king­dom’s diplomatic missions in Iran. This was followed by travel bans by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.

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