US labels Bahraini group Saraya al-Mukhtar terrorist, accuses Tehran of backing its plots against American soldiers

The US government has designated a Bahraini group as a terrorist organization, accusing it of being backed by Iran, plotting attacks against Americans soldiers in the kingdom, and offering cash for the assassination of officials.

“Saraya al-Mukhtar is an Iran-backed terrorist organization based in Bahrain, reportedly receiving financial and logistic support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in a statement on Tuesday. 

He added in a tweet that the move, which freezes any US assets of the group, sends a strong message to Iran that the US would not allow its “terrorist proxies” to threaten the Bahraini people or American soldiers overseas.

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Tehran has not yet responded to Washington’s allegations, although earlier on Tuesday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blasted what he called the US’ “addiction to sanctions.” Bahrain is also yet to comment on the designation.

Saraya al-Mukhtar is a Shi’ite Muslim group which has claimed multiple attacks on Bahraini security services since its inception in 2013, some of which have reportedly involved IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

It also reportedly calls Bahrain’s Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family and Saudi Arabia targets, although most of its members are either in prison or in Iran, according to Reuters.

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In 2017 the group, also known as the Mukhtar Brigades, said it was behind the hacking of the then-Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa’s Twitter account, to which it uploaded anti-government images and videos.

A 2018 report by the Washington-based Congressional Research Service stated that Saraya al-Mukhtar is an offshoot of the Bahraini militant group, al-Ashtar Brigades.

The al-Ashtar Brigades have claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Bahrain, including the jailbreak of ten convicted terrorists that led to the death of a police officer in 2017, according to the UK’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace. The British home secretary proscribed both Saraya al-Mukhtar and the al-Ashtar Brigades under the Terrorism Act in 2017.

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