MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini officials seized stocks of weapons, including some being smuggled in by sea, and defused a car bomb during two days of security raids in the restless Gulf nation, the country's public security chief said Monday.
Authorities also announced the capture of a speedboat allegedly smuggling out 13 people, including one Saudi, wanted in connection with security cases in Bahrain. They were carrying passports, different types of currency, phones and personal belongings, according to a government statement.
Bahrain is a small island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. More than 65 people have been killed in violence since protests led by the country's Shiite majority began in February 2011 calling for a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled nation.
Bahrain accuses Shiite powerhouse Iran of aiding the uprising. Tehran denies the accusations. "Bahrain is still facing systematic terrorism from many parties," government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab said.
Public Security Chief Tareq al-Hassan said operations carried out Saturday and Sunday led to the seizure of plastic explosives, detonators, bombs, automatic rifles and ammunition. The weapons were found in a warehouse and onboard a boat intercepted as it was heading to the country, he said.
Included in the cache discovered onboard the boat, which was first detected in international waters off Bahrain's northeastern coast, were "50 Iranian made hand bombs" and nearly 300 commercial detonators marked "Made in Syria," according to a government statement.
Iran is the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. The car bomb authorities dismantled was discovered in the busy central district of Hoora in the capital, Manama, the government said.
While he did not specifically accuse Iran or members of the opposition of involvement, al-Hassan said the "fugitives said that they were heading to Iran." Anti-government factions in Bahrain have at times used homemade bombs. One blast Friday wounded two policemen, authorities said.
Monday's announcement of the security operations comes two days after authorities summoned the head of the country's main Shiite opposition bloc, al-Wefaq, for questioning on allegations of incitement.
Ali Salman was summoned to address comments he made in a sermon Friday that allegedly contained sectarian language, incited hatred against the government and promoted rioting and vandalism. He has since been released from custody but is barred from traveling abroad while prosecutors consider the case.