Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain

Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain
The scene of a bomb blast that killed a man in a Bahraini village in 2014. A new report shows the weapons have become increasingly sophisticated. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain

Revealed: How Iran supplies militant bomb factories in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain
  • Weapons-smuggling investigators find links in seized components
  • Tehran regime spreads explosives expertise into eastern part of Kingdom

LONDON: Bomb parts seized by security forces in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain match explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in Yemen, a new report reveals.

The electrical components for improvised explosive devices (IED) were also identical to those seized from a ship off the coast of Yemen in 2013, according to Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an organization that tracks smuggled weapons.

The cargo vessel was laden with missiles, rockets and ammunition when it was intercepted by US and Yemeni forces after leaving Iranian waters. UN experts said the regime in Tehran was behind the shipment.

The link raises concerns that Iran-backed militant groups have tried to spread bomb-making expertise into eastern Saudi Arabia from cells in Bahrain, CAR said.

 

 

“There is some evidence to suggest that the increasing domestic capacity of militant factions to manufacture homemade explosives — and IED more broadly — may extend from Bahrain to nearby regions of Saudi Arabia,” it said.

CAR researchers studied IED parts captured from militant groups between 2013 and 2018 in Bahrain, where security forces have been targeted by insurgents.

They also recorded details from components seized in a raid in Awamiyah in eastern Saudi Arabia in April 2017, where militants clashed with security forces for several months.

Another seizure also took place on a bus on the King Fahd causeway that links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia




IEDs and plastic explosives recovered from militant cells in Bahrain in 2017 and 2018. (CAR)

Components from the seizures, including infrared sensors, and radio-controls “are identical or similar” to components documented in Yemen after their capture from Houthi forces and to those found on the cargo ship in 2013, the report said.

“The components either originated in Iran or are linked to Iranian-backed supply networks in the region.”

Iran supports and supplies the Houthis with weapons and has been accused of supporting militant Shiite cells in Bahrain. Arab countries blame Tehran for destabilizing the Middle East with its support of proxy forces, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and armed factions in Iraq.

In Bahrain, the level of sophistication for IED increased dramatically after 2013, when security forces started to intercept ships carrying readymade bomb components among supplies of conventional weapons. The bombs have killed at least 14 security force members and injured dozens in Bahrain since 2013. Before that, crude devices had been used amid protests and rioting in 2011.




Components for making bombs seized in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia were studied by experts and found to match those supplied by Iran to Yemen.  (CAR)

The report found that the militants stored the explosive and non-explosive components at separate locations and delayed assembly until close to the time of use.

This “implies that militant factions use relatively sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures” and “centralize the construction of non-explosive components in preparation for onward distribution.”

Researchers also found information that usually helps identify components, such as circuit boards, had been systematically removed. The only other place they had seen this carried out to such an extent was in Yemen, among components seized from the Houthis.

“It’s striking that those involved in the supply chain chose to obliterate identifying information and serial numbers of RCIED circuit boards, at a rate much higher than found in CAR’s data set from investigations in Iraq and Syria,” CAR executive director James Bevan said. “It indicates a concerted effort among parties to the illicit supply chain to conceal the origins of materiel and prevent investigations like ours from tracing supply routes.”

*Read the full report from Conflict Armament Research here 


In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 59 min 33 sec ago

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.

HIGHLIGHT

The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”