POLICE in Bahrain have seized a huge quantity of weapons and bomb-making material during a major anti-terrorism operation conducted over two days.
The discovery of a massive weapons smuggling ring from Iraq and a boat service helping fugitives escape Bahrain by sea was followed by a raid on an illegal arms depot and the disarming of a car bomb in Manama.
Items confiscated include Iranian-made explosives, Syrian bomb detonators, Kalashnikovs, C-4 explosives, Claymores, a PK machine gun, hand grenades, circuit boards for use in bomb making, armour-piercing explosives, TNT and a raft of other materials used to manufacture bombs.
Seventeen people, including a Saudi national, were arrested during the successful operation, some of whom have admitted to receiving weapons training in Iraq and Iran, Public Security chief Major General Tariq Al Hassan announced yesterday.
The anti-terror sweep took place on Saturday and Sunday and included one of Bahrain's biggest ever weapons seizures at sea.
A boat spotted entering Bahrain's territorial waters was intercepted 3.2km off the coast of Karannah village, located near the Budaiya Highway, with two Bahrainis on board.
"This is the biggest haul of weapons we have seized from our sea border in recent times," said Maj Gen Al Hassan.
The boat was found to be carrying 38 C4 explosives, 31 Claymores, hand grenades, 30 Nokia mobile phones, a Thuraya satellite phone with SIM card, a PK machine gun with 12 cartridges, 29 circuit boards for use in bomb making, two boxes of ignition capsules, six explosive devices containing magnets, 12 armour-piercing explosives and other explosives including TNT.
"Fifty Iranian-made hand bombs and 295 commercial detonators, on which was written 'made in Syria', were also found," said Major Gen Al Hassan during a Press conference at the Information Affairs Authority yesterday.
"Our investigations revealed the persons caught were trained in camps located in Iraq and Iran.
"One of the suspects talked about support from his brother in Iraq in the operation," he said.
Maj Gen Al Hassan said the boat with the two Bahrainis on board was handed over the large quantity of weapons and explosives by another boat coming from Iraq.
"The investigations are still ongoing and we need to find out how these weapons were smuggled out from Iraq," he said.
After foiling the weapons smuggling operation police conducted three raids on suspected arms warehouses in Quraya village, also near the Budaiya Highway.
In one location they found a huge quantity of explosives, another 56 commercial detonators made in Syria, a gun, six Kalashnikovs and material used in bomb making.
Officers also seized 11 mobile phones, four electrical circuits, four "hand bombs", a plastic container holding a mercury-like substance, a cylindrical container holding a number of iron rods, a red bullet, four rectangular blocks wrapped in white tape containing explosive materials, a wireless device and a number of detonator devices.
Major Gen Al Hassan said police were trying to establish the exact targets of planned attacks, but understood them to be police and military installations.
"Based on our information their target was the Ministry of Interior and military centres," he said.
As part of the massive anti-terror operation police also learnt that wanted fugitives were escaping Bahrain by a boat from Karannah.
Maj Gen Al Hassan revealed a 29-foot boat fitted with two 200hp engines was spotted heading north towards Iran and intercepted 16km off the mainland in a joint operation conducted with the Royal Bahrain Naval Force.
"Thirteen people wanted in security cases were aboard, one of whom is a Saudi national," he said.
They were arrested and their belongings including passports, different currencies, mobile phones and clothes seized.
"Four of the suspects admitted they received training in Iran and some of the cases have been referred to the Public Prosecution," said Maj Gen Al Hassan.
He added that police were still hunting bombers who planned to blow up a stolen car in Hoora.
The bomb squad found a gas cylinder, two fuel containers and a homemade pipe bomb connected to a detonator, but managed to defuse the device before it went off.
"Investigations are still ongoing to capture perpetrators of this terrorist act," said Maj Gen Al Hassan.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information Affairs and the government's official spokesperson Sameera Rajab said the kingdom is still facing systematic and organised terrorism staged by extremist sides with support from more extremist forces.
These sides "are still importing tools of murder and death to Bahrain" and staging media and religious campaigns to fuel hatred and cause destruction, she said
ahead of the Press conference by the Public Security chief.
She added the kingdom was facing the recent security challenges firmly, noting that the arrested terrorists were plotting attacks to disrupt the kingdom's security and stability.