Bahrain’s Counterterrorism Efforts: Dealing with the al-Ashtar Brigades Threat

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The al-Ashtar Brigades or AAB is a Shiite militant body in Bahrain designated as a terrorist organization by the administrations of Bahrain, Egypt, KSA, the United Arab Emirates, the US and Canada. Al-Ashtar Brigades plans and executes terrorist attacks against the Government of Bahrain with Iran’s service. The group appeared in 2013 when it separated from the 14 February Youth Coalition, Bahrain’s elder Iran-aligned Shia militia. AAB strives to overthrow Bahrain’s monarchy. The body has reportedly asserted responsibility for over 20 attacks in Bahrain, mainly targeting police and security forces. The group was designated a terrorist association by Bahrain after the 2014 Daih bombing. In 2017, a security officer died in an AAB attack in Manama.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is fully dedicated to combating extremism and terrorism in the shape of ABB. It does so via various government mechanisms with different commitments within its constitutional framework of administrative, legislative, and judicial bodies. The Government of Bahrain initiated multiple programs intended to enhance relations between the community and security forces.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs prioritizes these problems under the umbrella of the Strategic Affairs Sector. The part of the sector is to support the assignments of specialized law enforcement mechanisms within the Kingdom of Bahrain, which aim to frustrate and defeat the actions of terrorist organizations such as The al-Ashtar Brigades that desire to cause collective harm by terrorizing secure communities and funding individuals with extremist ideologies. The sector denotes the relevant interests of the Kingdom of Bahrain in contracts, alliances, and international associations related to these tasks. It also maintains membership in policy-making committees at the national, provincial, and international levels that operate towards this goal.

The Kingdom of Bahrain illegalises terrorism, which is described as the use or threat of force or any other unlawful means that constitutes an offence punishable by law. Groups such as the al-Ashtar Brigades resort to terrorism to execute individual or collective criminal schemes, seeking to disrupt public order, endanger the safety and security of the Kingdom, damage national unity, or inflict harm on international society. These activities are addressed through the enforcement of anti-terrorism laws.

The Kingdom of Bahrain, via its diplomatic channels, persists in working with the Kingdom’s partners and allies to disrupt the al-Ashtar Brigades and terrorism financing. This includes determining and obstructing The al-Ashtar Brigades and the origins of terrorism financing, freezing the support of terrorists and their supporters, stopping the al-Ashtar Brigades and terrorists from accessing the economic system, and guarding legitimate charitable institutions from exploitation by terrorists. Additionally, the ministry concentrates on combating extremism in all its forms, which are seen as detrimental to societies and create a state of polarization worldwide.

The Government of Bahrain also persisted in public outreach endeavours such as a community police program that functions to bridge the divide between the Bahraini Shia community and the police force in neighbourhoods and public schools.  The Ministry of Interior persisted in implementing the Bahrainuna (“Our Bahrain”) initiative to facilitate a shared, national Bahraini identity.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms its dedication to the counterterrorism purposes of the United Nations, its key bodies and technical agencies, as well as appropriate entities such as the Financial Action Task Force, the Global Coalition Against ISIS, the Counter Terrorism Financing Targeting Center, the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, NATO and all other applicable security organizations with which the Kingdom has joined into partnerships. The ministry actively cooperates with these entities in the fight against al-Ashtar Brigades.

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