By Caleb Weiss
February 11, 2019
Saraya al Ashtar, one of the main Iranian proxy groups in the Kingdom of Bahrain, released its first-ever video statement in which it promises more attacks on the island. A spokesman for the group also eulogized several deceased Bahraini militants who were killed on this date two years ago.
The spokesman, identified as a commander within Saraya al Ashtar, began the video by sending the group’s blessings to “the leaders of the free men and resistance fighters, Ayatollah Khomeini and Sheikh Nimr Baqir al Nimr.”
He then laid into a diatribe against the Bahraini government and the ruling Al Khalifa family, accusing it of working with various intelligence agencies to take down Saraya al Ashtar and other militant groups on the island. The spokesman alleged that the group’s operations have uncovered foreign plots on the island.
Speaking to this statement, the spokesman denounced “American and British intelligence plots” against the group. However, no specific details were given for this allegation. It is likely that the spokesman was referring to the group’s designation as a terrorist group by both governments.
Speaking directly to the United States and the United Kingdom, the commander says “so we say to the conspirators against our people that your support for the occupying Khalifa regime will carry a high price for you and will make you a legitimate target for our strikes.”
The commander also decried the “Khilafa regime’s openness to the Zionists,” which he stated “has strengthened the will and the soul of the Islamic Resistance in Bahrain.” Like the US and the UK, the jihadist commander also stated “Zionist presence is a legitimate target” on the island.
Before ending the speech, he made a call to action for the people of Bahrain stating that “embracing the Resistance’s line is a path to pride and victory.”
Intertwined within the speech, three of the group’s killed members were eulogized by the commander, including Reda al Ghasra, Mahmoud Yahya, and Mustafa Yusuf. The three, who were en route to Iran, were killed by Bahraini security forces off the coast of Bahrain on Feb. 9, 2017.
Ghasra, identified as one of the most important figures in “the establishment of the Islamic Resistance of Bahrain,” was freed during the Jan. 2017 prison break at the Jow prison in southern Bahrain. The other two militants reportedly played a role in the sophisticated operation at the prison.
Saraya al Ashtar, also known as the Al Ashtar Brigades, is one of Iran’s main proxy forces in Bahrain. Several of its leaders are based in Iran, including US-designated terrorists Qassim Abdullah Ali Ahmed and Hasan Yusuf.
In State’s designation of Ahmed, it noted he “recruited terrorists in Bahrain, facilitated training on weapons and explosives for AAB members, and supplied AAB members with funding, weapons, and explosives to carry out attacks.”
In State’s designation of the group itself, it also said that Iran provides “extensive support in both weapons and training for the militia, including in Iraq.” Saraya al Ashtar, for its part, does not hide its affiliation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Last year, it adopted more official IRGC branding in its logo and flag.
During the same announcement of the re-branding, it also reaffirmed its loyalty to the Islamic Republic. “We believe that the commander and ruler of the Islamic religion is the line of the two imams, Khomeini and Khamenei, which is in the original Muhammad approach in confronting the oppressors and fighting back against the tyrants,” the group’s statement said.
This Iranian support can be seen by Bahraini security operations across the island, in which large quantities of advanced Iranian weapons shipments and explosives, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), have been intercepted. Iran has also buried killed Bahraini militants within its borders, further showing the Islamic Republic’s support of extremists in Bahrain.
Saraya al Ashtar has not claimed any attacks since 2017, however, today’s video is meant to show that the group, despite Bahraini security operations against it, is still alive. And while Saraya al Ashtar has yet to claim any attacks on American or British personnel or institutions in Bahrain since its inception in 2013, the video reaffirms that it, and Iran, see these countries as legitimate targets.
Long War Journal