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Bahrain’s ongoing political crisis threatens stability

The Bahraini government is taking a strong stand against the militant Shiite opposition factions that have become more radical in the past few years.
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Bahrain’s Shiite opposition was overwhelmingly nonviolent when unrest erupted in the archipelago sheikhdom six years ago. Amid the recent narrowing of space in Bahrain’s political arena, however, a growing number of marginalized Shiites have radicalized and turned toward militancy. Last year, a wave of Shiite-orchestrated attacks targeted Bahrain’s security apparatus. As of March, there had already been almost as many attacks this year as there were in all of 2016. This development is unsettling given that heightened Shiite militancy severely dims the prospects for peaceful resolution of Bahrain’s ongoing political crisis.

Since 2012, militant Shiites have made their presence felt through violent outbursts, which mainly targeted police officers. In addition, these militants have shown their strength by planting grenades at a mall, detonating an explosive device at the National Bank of Bahrain in Sanad and attacking a power station. These armed Shiite opposition groups include the so-called February 14 Movement, Saraya al-Ashtar (Ashtar Brigade), Saraya al-Muqawama al-Shabiya (Resistance Brigade, or SMS), Saraya al-Mukhtar (Bahraini Islamic Resistance), Quroob al-Basta and Saraya al-Karar. In March 2014, Saraya al-Ashtar and SMS claimed responsibility for the “single worst incident of terrorism on Bahraini soil,” which killed two Bahraini police officers and an Emirati officer in the predominantly Shiite village of Daih. This attack prompted Bahrain’s government to designate those two groups plus the February 14 Movement as terrorist organizations.

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