At least five blasts caused by home- made devices left two men dead in Manama, as violence moved to the heart of Bahrain’s capital city.
The dead and another man wounded in the explosions were all foreigners working near the business and diplomatic districts of the city, the Information Affairs Authority said in an e-mailed statement.
Initial investigations showed that one man died when he kicked a device in Gudaibiya, while the second was injured in an explosion near the Awal Cinema and was later pronounced dead in a hospital. A third blast in Adliya seriously injured a street cleaner.
While today’s explosions mark the most high-profile attack in downtown Manama, the government has accused members of the Shiite Muslim majority of resorting to violence and says they receive encouragement from co-religionists in the Iranian government. The country cracked down last year on protests led by the Shiite community, leaving dozens dead and the economy growing at the slowest pace in 17 years.
“Radicalization is increasing,” Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at the U.K. research institute, Chatham House, said in a phone interview. “This is a major development in the course of events in the country.” It’s unlikely any foreign power was involved in the blasts, she said.
Bahraini police have identified “a number” of suspects involved in the explosions and are searching for others, Major- General Tariq Al Hassan, chief of public security, was quoted by the Bahrain News Agency as saying. Manama hosts next month’s Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
Bahrain said it “condemned these terrorist acts that aim to terrorize citizens and residents, and to destabilize the country,” according to an e-mailed statement today from Minister of Information Samira Rajab. She accused unnamed religious figures of issuing fatwas designed to “incite violence against civilians and policemen.” The victims were described as “Asian residents.”
The main opposition Shiite group, al-Wefaq, condemned the attacks “if they had actually occurred, regardless of who stands behind them,” according to an e-mailed statement.
“Due to the absence of independent human rights and media parties, it is difficult to clearly detect the truth behind incidents that are said to have occurred,” the group said.
Bahraini security forces have announced a series of raids and arrests this year against alleged terrorist groups. Police said in August that three people were detained on suspicion of assembling home-made bombs after five tons of explosive materials were uncovered during raids two months earlier.
The three detainees appeared to have been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon, the al-Watan newspaper reported on July 1, citing a police investigation. Hezbollah is allied to Iran, which accuses Bahrain of oppressing its Shiite majority. The newspaper said British detectives were assisting the inquiry.
In September, prosecutors accused 39 people of links to two roadside bombs that injured four policemen in the al-Daraz area five months earlier, the state-run Bahrain News Agency said, citing Ibrahim al-Kawari, the deputy general prosecutor.
Today’s explosions occurred less than a week after the government banned all demonstrations. That followed an attack on a police patrol that left one officer dead and another seriously injured in what the government described as an act of “domestic terror.”
Bahrain, which began pumping oil in the 1930s, is the smallest producer in the Persian Gulf. It depends on Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, to supply it with crude pumped from a shared oil field and delivered by pipeline.
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