Bahrain broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran to launch attacks on diplomats and foreigners in the island nation home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, just days after normalizing relations with Israel, Saudi state television reported Sunday.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry and its state media did not immediately acknowledge the arrests. Bahraini government officials, who routinely claim breaking up plots by militants backed by Iran, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Saudi state TV report aired footage of what appeared to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage showed assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid. A Saudi state TV reporter said those planning the attacks wanted to carry them out in revenge for the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani this January in a drone strike in Baghdad.
Some militants have been arrested, while others are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report said.
Iranian state media acknowledged the reports of the Bahraini arrests, but no official commented on them.
Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declined to comment and referred questions to the Bahraini government.
Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia, just last week normalized relations with Israel alongside the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi state TV report did not mention that.
Bahrain’s Shiite majority long has accused its Sunni rulers of treating them like second-class citizens. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.
Bahrain promised change after the protests. But since April 2016, Bahrain has engaged in a new crackdown on dissent, overturning reforms that blocked civilians from being tried in military courts. It has shut down political parties, arrested political activists and forced others into exile. Militant groups have launched small, sporadic attacks amid that crackdown.