Overview:  There were no terrorist attacks in Bahrain in 2022, and domestic security forces conducted numerous operations to preempt and disrupt attack planning.  The Public Prosecution Office’s 2022 annual report announced that its Terrorism Crimes Unit prosecuted seven terrorism cases during the year, including criminal cases in appeals courts.  The Government of Bahrain (GOB) is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force and the regional Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) and supports U.S. government counterterrorism efforts.  Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and participates in U.S.-led military coalitions, including the International Maritime Security Construct and the Combined Maritime Forces.  The United States and Bahrain signed several agreements to enhance cooperation on countering terrorism and border security.  Bahrain continued to provide support for countering Iran’s malign activities in the region.  The GOB initiated numerous programs intended to improve relations between the citizen community and security forces, and to counter violent extremism.  The Department of State funded training and capacity building opportunities for Bahraini officials.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no terrorist attacks reported in Bahrain in 2022.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  During the second U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue in March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior signed instruments to formalize the implementation of a) Automated Targeting System-Global to enhance airport passenger security and b) Foreign Electronic Cargo Data Exchange Program to identify high-risk cargo shipments.

On April 18, according to Government of Bahrain press statements, the Court of Cassation upheld a 15-year prison sentence against two defendants who were found guilty of having links to the U.S.-designated terrorist group al-Ashtar Brigades and attempting to plant explosives at two bank ATMs in February 2021.  The court also upheld a 10-year prison sentence for a third defendant in the same case.  According to the Ministry of Interior, 13 other defendants were tried in the same case and received prison sentences ranging from three years to life in prison.

On June 27 the Supreme Criminal Court of Appeals upheld guilty verdicts against Hasan Mubarak, Jasim Muhammed, and Salman Ali Salman, charged with burning an ATM machine in Samaheej in September 2021.  According to the Bahraini government, the three defendants set fire to the ATM machine because the bank signed an agreement to cooperate with an Israeli bank.  The three defendants were sentenced to three, 10, and 15 years in prison, respectively.

In October the Supreme Criminal Court of Appeals upheld guilty verdicts against six former Future Bank officials.  They were sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison and were each fined one million Bahraini dinars ($2.66 million) for money laundering and carrying out 166 illegal transactions.  According to the Bahraini government, the former Future Bank officials were third-country nationals and will be deported following completion of their prison sentences.  Bahrain-based Future Bank, which was controlled by the National Bank of Iran (Bank-e Melli) and Iran’s Export Bank (Bank-e Saderat), laundered more than a billion U.S. dollars between 2008 and 2012 and shielded Iranian entities that financed terrorism from international sanctions.

There were reports that the Bahraini government used counterterrorism laws to restrict freedoms of expression, association, assembly and religion or belief by prosecuting law-abiding government critics.  According to NGOs, the government held an unverified number of political prisoners, and charges against individuals identified by NGOs as political prisoners included terrorism, treason, espionage, and attempting to overthrow the monarchy.  The antiterrorism law prohibits unlicensed gatherings of more than five persons, and the Ministry of Interior maintained a prohibition on public demonstrations to “maintain public order.”

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Bahrain is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force.  Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Directorate, is a member of the Egmont Group.  Bahrain is also a member of the regional TFTC.

In collaboration with other TFTC member states, Bahrain in June sanctioned 16 individuals, entities, and groups affiliated with a variety of regional terrorist organizations, including IRGC-QF, ISIS, and Boko Haram.  The targets also included Bahraini U.S.-designated terrorist groups al-Ashtar Brigades and al-Mukhtar Brigades.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The Government of Bahrain continued public outreach initiatives such as the community police program that works to bridge the divide between the Bahraini Shia community and police force in neighborhoods and public schools.  The Ministry of Interior continued to implement the Bahrainuna (“Our Bahrain”) initiative to promote a shared, national Bahraini identity.

Al-Mukhtar Brigades and al-Ashtar Brigades seek to destabilize Bahraini society and pave the way for Iran to exert greater influence in Bahrain.  A UN Counterterrorism Center’s 2020 report recommended that the Bahraini government enhance civil society’s capacity to adhere to countering terrorism finance regulations in a manner that is commensurate to the risk posed to civil society organizations by terrorist groups.

In September the Ministry of Interior’s drug abuse and CVE prevention program, Ma’an, in partnership with DARE USA, introduced curricula in public and private schools that focused on CVE and promoting coexistence, as well as cybersecurity.  Ma’an worked in partnership with the University of North Carolina and DARE USA to develop a tolerance and CVE student curriculum as part of the National Action Plan to Combat Extremism.

International and Regional Cooperation:  As of December, small elements of the Bahrain Defense Force continue to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.  Bahrain is a member of the GCC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League.  Bahrain participates in and hosts the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) — the largest maritime partnership in the world.  CMF is a 34-nation maritime partnership that upholds the rules-based international order by countering illicit nonstate actors carrying weapons, narcotics, trafficking victims, and other contraband on the high seas, thus promoting security, stability, and prosperity.

In February, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken and Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani convened the second U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue, which included a working group to discuss bilateral and regional efforts to counter terrorism and transnational threats.

On July 2, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa signed three MOUs to enhance cooperation in countering terrorist financing, cybersecurity, and unmanned aerial vehicles systems.

The U.S. Mission in Manama facilitated nine Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) courses with the Ministry of Interior:

  1. Social Media Investigations Consultation
  2. Advanced Social Media Investigations Consultation
  3. Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course (EDCHC)
  4. Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience
  5. Behavioral Observation Skills-Countering Lebanese Hizballah Consultation
  6. Social Media Investigations Consultation Train the Trainer
  7. Digital Forensics Lab Mentoring
  8. Fraudulent Document Recognition Behavioral Analysis Advanced Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Consultation
  9. Advanced Travel Document Recognition Countering Lebanese Hizballah Consultation

ATA conducted a two-week Assessment Monitoring Unit visit in June and published a report that focused on border security, crisis management, and cyber functional areas.  Embassy Manama facilitated several predeployment site surveys by ATA subject-matter experts to facilitate and enhance the training deliveries.  The February EDCHC course in the United States included an equipment grant of 10 explosive-detection canines to the Ministry of Interior.

In May and September, the Department of Justice’s Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) and the Department of State’s ATA program successfully completed the second and third of five phases in the Counter-Lebanese Hizballah Training Program, which builds terrorism investigations and prosecution capabilities through information integration and capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, and judges.

In March the OPDAT Resident Legal Advisor, funded by Department of State’s CT Bureau, hosted a three-day regional conference in Manama, attended by prosecutors, investigators, and FIUs from 10 Middle Eastern and North African countries.  The conference discussed strengthening international judicial cooperation and equipping judges and prosecutors with Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism knowledge to fight international organized crime and money laundering, and outlined the challenges in investigating and prosecuting money-laundering cases.

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