Bahraini government: Episode of conspiracy with extremist organizations & our raids on Iraq and Syria, and "Nabeel Rajab"

ISIS Are Among Us: From long-lasting denial to confessing: "We have 100 fighters"

2014-11-30 - 6:32 ص

by Husain Marhoon: The Bahraini authorities continued to adopt an approach based on denying that its citizens joined fighting outside the country alongside extremist organizations or that extremists have a foothold in the local community. "There are no supporters of ISIS among us". This is one of the "statements of denial" government officials worked on constantly spreading in the local media in response to reports about ISIS flags being raised in a number of areas in Bahrain. In a statement made on August 10th 2014 before the country's announcement of joining the war against the extremist group, Bahrain's deputy prime minister Mohammed Bin Mubarak Bin Al Khalifa said: "What has been reported about an ISIS flag being raised over one of Bahrain's mosques is not true and there are no ISIS supporters among us."

The former Saudi ambassador to the United States Turki Al-Faisal, whose country has great influence now on the decision-making process in Bahrain since its forces intervened to crackdown on the 2011 protests, used this "statement of denial" during a seminar held last October on the 29thin Washington. He said: "There is no presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Bahrain." In an attempt to clear his little ally's name after many reports emerged about the deaths



of Bahraini youths and the impressive symbolic positions many are holding in the extremist groups, he went on to say: "Bahrain is free from ISIS and similar groups yet there are acts of violence committed by Shiite parties." Denial; however, is not the only approach used to address the issue of local extremist groups. Here is another absurd statement made by the Bahraini government spokeswoman and the Minister of State for Information Affairs, Samira Rajab, after ISIS seized large swathes of land in Iraq last June, "ISIS is a name used as a cover up to silence the will of the Iraqi people."

Rajab also gave a series of silly comments on June 11th 2014 about regional developments in which she said: "There are confirmations that ISIS is a name that is being thrown around in the media as a cover up to silence the will of the Iraqi people for freedom and dignity," considering that "the events in Anbar might be a revolution against the injustice and oppression that has reigned over Iraq for more than ten years." The Bahraini government's representative in the UN Human Rights' Advisory Committee, Saeed Al-Faihani, made a similar statement on August 16th 2014 in which he considered the advances of ISIS in Iraq only reflects the "revolution of tribes".

Nonetheless, as the official political discourse was engulfed by expressions of "denial" and absurd justifications to cover up for extremist groups that have tightened their grip on nearly a third of Iraq and almost reached Baghdad, in addition to large areas of land in Syria; another scene emerged revealing how far Bahraini citizens were involved in these developments:

- One of the "young" prominent ISIS leaders is the Bahraini Turki Bin Mubarak Al-Binali, who comes from a clan having close ties to the Al Khalifa Bahraini ruling family, lived in Bahrain and traveled freely from and back to the country, under may aliases such as Abu Sufyan Al-Silmi, Abu Hammam Al-Athri, Abu Huthayfa Mohammed Bin Abedulrahman Al-Bahraini, Abu Hazm Al-Salafi, Abulhasan Al-Azdi, Hatem Al-Moqbel, Abu Al-Fidaa, Abu Dergham and other names. According to his scheduled visits for preaching over the past two years, he traveled to many countries, including Syria twice, Libya, Yemen and Morocco, until February 2014.

- One of the prominent Al-Qaeda leaders who died this year is the Bahraini Abdulrahman Shihab Ahmed Shihab, nicknamed "Abdulrahman Al-Sharqi". Al-Qaeda announced his death on October 14th 2014, saying he was killed in an alliance forces special operation in Iraq. It was later revealed-according to statements made by his friends following his death- that he served as a leader of Al-Qaeda's foreign affairs branch in Afghanistan. The US foreign ministry added his name to its terrorist blacklist in 2012 and US Treasury Department also added him to the list of those subject to economic sanctions in 2014.

- One of the top foreign affiliates whose membership was particularly celebrated by ISIS, after he joined their ranks in July 2014, since he defected from a security body, was the Bahraini interior ministry officer Mohammed Issa Al-Binali, nicknamed "Abu Issa Al-Silmi". He was still registered as a member of the ministry's staff until September 2014; i.e. even after officially announcing his arrival to Iraq and joining ISIS. Before announcing that one of its officers joined the extremist organization, the interior ministry declared in a statement issued on September 4th 2014 that "it had ended his service before that because he no longer came to work."

-Two of the most prominent people added to the list of funders of Jihadi movements and armed groups this year, 2014, which also includes about 131 academics, activists and clerics from 31 countries, are the Bahrainis Shawqi Bin Abdulrahman Al-Mana'i and Adel Bin Ali Al-Sheikh.

-One of the most effective "Equipping Invaders" campaigns in the gulf which were publicly announced under the banner of "supporting Jihad in Syria" was launched in Bahrain. It was led by an organization licensed by the Bahraini authorities, which is the Salafi "Al-Asala" group, with the support of radical gulf preachers who used to regularly visit Bahrain until mid-2014 for the purpose of raising money, like Sheikh Othman Khamees, Sheikh Hajjaj Al-Ajami, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Arifi, Sheikh Adnan Al-Aroor, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fayez and others. It was widely praised by Jihadi factions in Syria as many videos which continued to emerge throughout the period between mid-2012 and mid-2013 show, in which they expressed their thanks to supporters in Bahrain- more than any other gulf country.

-13 of the foreign fighters who were killed in Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2014 in the ranks of ISIS and Nusra Front were Bahrainis, two of which served the Bahraini defense force, Abdulaziz Othman and Abdulrahman Othman. Another one, called Ibrahim Al-Awadi, as his friends report, was able to leave Bahrain to Iraq; where he was killed on September 29th 2014, although he was not allowed to travel based on a previously issued warrant. Facts regarding the participation of Bahrainis in fighting for extremist organizations reveal distinct details about how smoothly they traveled back and forth-from conflict-ridden areas and then back to Bahrain twice and even more. The head of "Al-Adala" group, Muhyedin khan spoke in detail about the journey of his son, Ibrahim (18 years old), in fighting in Syria. He said: "He stayed for a month and then returned to Bahrain in mid-Ramadan and stayed with his family until mid-Shawwal. He traveled again and told us this timehe would not return unless he attained victory or martyrdom." UK's Observer newspaper also reported the story of one of the naturalized Bahrainis, who is a Syrian called Abu Motasem (18 years old) that "left his parents who worked in Bahrain and returned to his home country, where he joined the Free Syrian Army for several months before joining Ahrar Al-Sham group." In a report issued on August 17th 2014, the paper states that he "returned after that to visit his family in Bahrain, so they prevented him from going back to Syria to join the fighting. He; however, went back and joined ISIS."


Late Confession with "Preciosity"

Following the flow of reports speaking of this sort of incidents, the Bahraini government was forced, under media pressure, to break this policy of denial for the first time and adopt another deceitful approach, marked by "preciosity". This approach is based on an implicit acknowledgment of the growing role of extremist Bahrainis in Syria and Iraq, yet by also referring to the "local uproar" among Shiite opposition groups.

During a TV interview on "Rotana Gulf" (July 12, 2014), the Bahraini foreign minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, answering a question in this context, said: "There are Shiite Bahrainis who went to fight alongside the regime in Syria, and there are Sunni Bahrainis who are fighting against the regime. We are neither with this side or that." There was no material evidence provided to prove


these allegations are true-even when writing these words-.

Nevertheless, as the involvement of Bahrainis in external operations of extremist organizations immensely increased, the use of "preciosity" seemed to turn into a "comedy". Thereafter, the United States announced in September of this year 2014 the launch of air raids on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, which drove the Bahraini authorities to "ease" the long-lasting discourse of denial and confess everything that was concealed when all "acts of conspiracy" were denied.

The foreign minister then made many appearances on the media, in an unprecedented manner, following Bahrain's announcement of its participation in airstrikes against ISIS and made a statement on September 25, 2014. This time; however, he gave a full confession after maintaining an attitude of denial over a long period of time, saying: "The number of Bahrainis affiliated with what is known as the Islamic State (ISIS) reached 100."

The government spokeswoman Samira Rajab also shifted her absurd approach concerning the events in Iraq, after a video showed 4 Bahraini ISIS fighters threatening the government with annihilation. In a statement on September 30, 2014, she confirmed as well the information provided to the security forces: "The number of Bahraini fighters in the ranks of ISIS in Iraq and Syria reached 100," pointing out that: "This is the information we currently have and it is the most precise."


"WikiLeaks" and the Ambassador's Concern

The truth is that the timeline of the Bahraini authorities' attitude towards extremist Salafism growing inside the country reveals a show of "conspiracy", compared to the policy of determination adopted by opposition groups calling for democracy.

Over the years following the war on Afghanistan (2002-2012), the authorities gradually announced the arrest of at least five cells, suspected of being linked to Al-Qaeda, some of which were senior Jihadists in Afghanistan.

The harshest sentences handed out to their members after charging them with specific crimes (two cases at least) did not exceed five years. The remaining sentences were less reaching one year only, and before serving these limited sentences in prison, they were granted "royal" amnesty.

In February 2009, a high criminal court sentenced a Bahraini citizen to prison over charges of funding Al-Qaeda for one year in what was known as the "Cell of Five" case. It also sentenced his bodyguards-one of them was Syrian- in absentia to 5 years in prison. In March 2010, the same court sentenced two suspects to 5 years in prison after convicting them of "attempting to target the US base at Al-Juffair. One of them was Jordanian holding a Bahraini passport and another was a Bahraini national who worked for the Customs and Ports body.

In this regard, WikiLeaks documents revealed interesting details about the first case of the "Cell of Five" in which the Bahraini Ahmed Shihab, who was the leader of Al-Qaeda's foreign affairs branch in Afghanistan and whose name was added to the US terrorist blacklist, was condemned.

A documented correspondence between the US embassy in Manama and the US state department revealed that a statement on May 11th 2009 by the US ambassador Adam Ereli, during a meeting with prosecutor-general Ali Fadel Ghanem Al-Bou'aynayn, expressing Washington's fear that "the king might grant amnesty to one of those charged in the "Cell of Five" case, particularly the Bahraini Shihab, or the Syrian Khattab, as was the case of Adel Saleh, who was convicted in the same case."

This correspondence addressed to the US ambassador indicated that he intensively continued holding meetings with first-class Bahraini officials between April and May 2009, during which he expressed US concern of the royal amnesty granted to Adel Saleh. He met with the under-secretary of the Bahraini foreign ministry, defense force leader, minister of commerce and minister of finance twice during April 2009 for the same purpose.

He met again with prosecutor-general Ali Fadel Ghanem Al-Bou'aynayn on May 10, 2009 to ask him "what the Bahraini government will do with Saleh later" and he also asked about the men convicted in absentia, Ahmed Shihab and Khattab. The report explains that the prosecutor-general assured the ambassador that "Saleh, who came out of prison after being granted royal amnesty, will not be allowed to leave the country," and that "the national security force confiscated his passport and is watching his moves and activities."

At the end of the correspondence, the US ambassador made a very significant comment, saying: "Based on our experience with the Bahraini government, it can control extremist Sunni groups," according to a document released by WikiLeaks under this code: MANAMA281_a09.


Calculations of the Marshal and his "Men"

"Can control extremist Sunni groups" is an expression, summarizing many facts about why the authorities eluded questioning "Al-Asala" leaders about their public activities linked to "Equipping


Invaders" campaign that continued to be held in Bahraini mosques for a full year (from August 2012 until August 2013) for the explicit aim of "supporting Jihad in Syria", and about the many times they snuck into Syria and met with militants of extremist organizations until the onset of this year.

The leader of Bahrain's defense forces, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa spoke of earlier about some kind of "control program" through a series of statements he made during an interview with the Kuwaiti daily "Al-Rai" (Jun 16, 2013), in which he considered that the "Syrian revolution is the only one that can be described as a revolution of the people, and what happened in other Arab countries, starting from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen to Bahrain is a western conspiracy." He also called for "sending united Arab forces to Syria in order to stop the massacres, and gulf forces can also intervene to prevent a regional war."

Correspondingly, the foreign minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa announced again his commitment to the aforementioned program, during an interview with "Al-Hayat" newspaper (September 30, 2013): "We are still with arming the Syrian people so that they can defend themselves." Local extremist movements can interpret this as a "green light", and that's what they did.

Unsurprisingly, "Al-Asala", from which Islamist groups admitted to "receiving anti-aircraft missiles," was the first one to applause these comments. For its leader, Abdulhalim Morad, commented in a statement (June 16, 2013) that: "We must heed the marshal's call for providing military support, from Arab and gulf countries, to aid the Syrian people in their fight against Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guards and the Russian military."

One can notice that the attitude of all Salafi movements in Bahrain conforms with the official Bahraini attitude in addressing the events in the region. So based on this, one can determine how much it is involved.

Al-Asala group's printing of "evasive" ads based on so-called humanitarian purposes to raise money instead of "Equipping Invaders" campaign coincides with the Bahraini government's shift to a new approach concerning the Syrian issue;" for it is convinced today-along with the rest of the gulf states-that arming extremist groups is no longer a solution. So it is now replacing the policies of denial with confessions.

Therefore, the Salafi movements adapted its attitude with the Bahraini government's "shift" in its stance regarding the Syrian issue.

Prudently observing the Salafi attitude in Bahrain, one can conclude two facts: Firstly, they were all involved at some point in supporting "Jihad in Syria" with funds, fighters and agitation, only with one exception, which is Sheikh Fawzi Al-Athari. He is a religious preacher from Qalali area, who forbids working in politics. Secondly, they support the historical relations of loyalty with the Bahraini regime; even those described as "Jihadi".

These relations are based on the policy of "mutual service" which enables Salafi groups to achieve some benefits, including large-scale freedom of preaching and a range of resources. The government in return will attain some sort of traditional "religious" or "sectarian" legitimacy, which it is capable of using as a solid tool against opposition parties.

The Bahraini historian, Bashar Al-Hadi, whose blog online is considered a source which records the pressures that "moderate" Azhari groups are subjected to by the authorities, noticed that Bahrain's "Sunni Endowment (Awqaf)" Directorate whose members are appointed by royal decrees teach the same book taught by ISIS in areas where it maintained its grip on in Syria and Iraq. He alos pointed out in this context that the book is entitled "Kitab At-Tawhid (The Book of the Unity of God)" written by the founder of the Wahabi movement Mohammed Bin Abdulwahab (1703-1791), which is adopted by radical Takfiri groups. In a statement on June 30, 2014, he commented by saying: "The only difference is that the Sunni Endowment Directorate taught the book in 2012, yet ISIS taught it in 2014."

داعش 4

This attitude proves to be more deeply rooted when observing the Bahraini military institution's change of positions following February 14 protests, especially in regards to its military doctrine. A few reports this year mentioned a number of recently published books (2013) by "Religious Affairs Directorate" linked to the Bahraini defense force, which contained explicit expressions accusing Shiites (Rafidis), Ismailis, Druze, Nasiris, Jews and Christians of being unbelievers. Two of these books are written by an author named Naser Al-Qahtani: "The Light of Tawhid and Darkness of Disbelief According to the Book and Sunnah" and "The Light of the Sunnah and Darkness of Heresy in the Book and Sunnah." The last-mentioned book which is distributed among member of the Bahraini defense force extensively speaks of examples of "disbelief" among Shiites, referring to their religious beliefs, such as paying visits to the graves and shrines of Prophet Mohammed and the Imams of the Prophet's family, located in Medina in Saudi Arabia as well as Iraq and Iran. It also mentioned that one of the acts that represent "disbelief" is "the circumambulation of these shrines seeking closeness to those residing in them."

The author described those who he called the "Rafidis", which is a name used by extremist groups to demean the Shiite denomination, as heretics and that they are one of the "misguided sects" in addition to the Ismailis, Nasiris, Druze and others."

The author also considered that the celebrations the "Rafidis" and other religious sects hold, marking the Prophet's birthday and considering it "a holiday is an imitation of the Jews and Christians, and we forbid imitating them," also pointing out the festivities held on the occasions of Isra and Miraj and mid-Sha'ban.

Saudi Decision and Bahraini "Echo"

The decision made by the Saudi King Abdallah Bin Abdulaziz on February 3rd 2014, which stipulates that "Saudis who get involved in fighting outside the kingdom will be punished" caused an "obvious" shift in the methods used by Gulf States to address internally-rooted Salafi extremism. On February 7, 2014, the Bahraini government declared, in a statement published by "BNA" news agency that it supports "the Saudi decision of punishing those involved in fighting in Syria".

This was followed by another statement by the ministry of interior on February 25th, warning of "offering any kind of material or emotional support to extremist religious or intellectual movements or groups."

Following these developments, Salafi groups adopted new tactics to avoid any reference to military


support; even though it still supported it implicitly. Thus all "Equipping Invaders" campaign ads, which represented "Al-Asala" group's intervention in the Syrian crisis, suddenly vanished and were replaced by ads exploiting "humanitarian purposes". Similarly, all the tales of "Jihad", which Sheikh Adel Al-Hamad, one of the symbols of the pro-Qaeda Jihadi movement, constantly spoke of in his sermons in 2011 and 2012 and the onset of 2013 disappeared.

Turki Al-Binali, one of the symbols of the pro-ISIS Jihadi movement; however, declared particularly in this period after two weeks of the Bahraini government's statement (February 27, 2014) that he will permanently leave Bahrain and "head for Jihad in the Levant".

Contrary to what seemed to be a new strict policy adopted by the Bahraini authorities following the Saudi statement in addressing the issue of local extremist groups involved in fighting outside the country, the events of the few following weeks reveal interesting details about this matter.

On March 26, 2014, son of the royal court minister Nasser Bin Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa who served as an officer in Bahrain's military, who is also the chairman of East Riffa club, announced that efforts are being made by him personally along with others to "issue an official license by the government that allows raising money for Jihad in Syria." He added that "the purpose of issuing an official license is to assure the funders and refute claims by Iran supporters at the same time.

On June 18, 2014, Bahrain's "Gulf Daily News" paper revealed in an investigative report about "an extremist group in the Busaiteen area that is attempting to recruit Bahraini youth for the purpose of sending them to take part in fighting in Iraq and Syria."

It presented further interesting details about "a new gym in Muharreq that is being used by ISIS supporters as a place for recruiting Jihadists," pointing out that the group is known in Busaiteen and is working on recruiting Bahraini youth to fight in Syria and now in Iraq due to the tensions there". It mentioned as well that the group "started, in fact, visiting schools for boys aiming at convincing the students to participate in fighting in regional conflict-ridden areas."

This coincided with the spread of graffiti (July 4th 2014) on houses in the Busaiteen area in northern Bahrain, declaring its support for the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria "ISIS". For its part, "Al-Hayat" newspaper, which is funded by the royal Saudi family mentioned in a report (July 31, 2014) that ISIS flags were raised over the "Al-Fateh" mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the capital Manama during Eid prayers.

Commenting on this, a security source just reminded that "the government is keeping a watchful eye on sympathizers with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria "ISIS"". The source also underestimated the situation in statement to the newspaper, saying that "the Bahraini who are affiliated with ISIS are a very small group."

Media outlets also noticed that statements of condolence for Bahraini fighters who were killed in fighting alongside ISIS are being published on Bahrain News Agency "BNA". The incident of ISIS announcement of the death of Jihadist Bahraini Abdulaziz Al-Jodar, along with its dramatic details, is one of the best examples of this. Local papers reported how the agency, which is considered a main official platform for publishing government statements and procedures, and whose head is appointed by Bahrain's cabinet, published a statement of condolence on October 10th 2014 for the Jihadi Bahraini Abdulaziz Al-Jodar after reports emerged on his death in Iraq-during the participation of Bahrain in airstrikes-also mentioning when and where visits of condolence will be paid. The agency removed this announcement from its website only after his family denied reports about his death, explaining that it "had received s phone call from him from he is located in Iraq while ceremonies for offering condolences for him where going to begin."

Bahrain's announcement of joining the international campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria raised the "dose" of official government discourse against pro-ISIS groups. In a statement issued on September 20, 2012, the foreign minister threatened that "Bahrain will continue to monitor carefully in order to prevent individuals from leaving the country and joining terrorist groups". He also stressed that security forces "will arrest anyone who is proved to be linked to them as soon as he arrives to the country. Bahrain said as well in this context it will host an international conference in the capital Manama to discuss ways to stop the flow of funds for terrorism on November 9th 2014.

This; however, will clash to a great extent with its careless attitude towards growing dangers of local groups including those linked to ISIS. After reviewing the procedures taken by the government against these groups, especially the ones directly involved in supporting "Jihad" in Syria and Iraq over the past three years, the following facts are revealed:

-          Prohibiting Sheikh Adel Hassan Al-Hamad from delivering sermons based on correspondences between the minister of justice and Islamic affairs and endowment Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa and the miniter of interior Rashed Al Khalifa (August 7, 2014).

-          Seizing 7 vehicles for sticking ISIS logos (August 14, 2014). The spokesman of the Bahraini foreign ministry Mohammed Bin Deina stated that the "vehicle owners did not know that it was an ISIS logo."

-          Summing a number of Bahraini citizens who returned after fighting in Syria between "July 4th, October 30th and November 9th of this year 2014" for interrogation and then releasing them.

Courts have never witnessed raising a case against those involved in extremist groups or those responsible of recruiting Bahraini youth to fight outside the country. The only case that was raised in local courts and that was linked to this issue was the one against the Bahrain Center for Human Rights president, Nabeel Rajab, over tweets he posted warning that the country's "security forces" are an "incubator" for many Bahrainis who joined the militias of the Islamic State "ISIS". The leader of Bahrain's defense force Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was the one who filed the lawsuit against him. The grim and strict man surely knows how to select his opponents! Forget all about "ISIS"!

النسخة العربية

(1) ISIS Are Among Us: Peculiar Transition in Al-Asala Society Tactics
(2) ISIS Are Among Us: From Puppets in The Hands Of The Government To Rebels Against It

(3) ISIS are among us: from Al Joulani advocate to Al Baghdadi's



التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

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