Bahrain expels Iranian diplomat, alleges link to militants

AP News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2015 3:49 PM

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain ordered the acting Iranian charge d'affaires to leave within 72 hours Thursday night and recalled its own ambassador over allegations the Islamic Republic sponsored "subversion" and funneled arms to militants in the island kingdom.

There was no immediate response from Iranian officials over the expulsion of the Iranian diplomat, identified by the state-run Bahrain News Agency as Mohammad Reza Babai. Bahrain's Foreign Ministry said it already had decided to recall its ambassador, Rashid Saad Al Dossari, over the "continued Iranian interference."

The allegations against Iran "include supporting subversion, terrorism and incitement to violence through misleading media campaigns as well as assisting terrorist groups in the smuggling of weapons and explosives and training their members and harboring fugitives from justice," the ministry said in a statement.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom, which has faced four years of unrest from Shiite activists demanding more political freedom, often accuses Iran of meddling in its internal affairs.

It's not clear what specific incident sparked Thursday's decision. However, Bahraini authorities announced late Wednesday they had seized 1.5 tons of explosives at a suspected militant hideout in a warehouse south of the capital, Manama.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, previously expelled Iranian diplomats amid Shiite protests there in 2011 during the Arab Spring across the Middle East. Shiite leaders in Bahrain deny any connections to Tehran and an independent commission report into the 2011 unrest also found no evidence of such ties.

However, animosity between the countries has simmered ever since. Bahrain and its major ally, Saudi Arabia, worry about growing Iranian influence in the Mideast. Bahrain is part of a Saudi-led coalition targeting Shiite rebels in Yemen who are backed by Iran.