MANAMA, Bahrain – Fourteen people have been arrested for plotting attacks on the Bahraini capital Manama, Bahrain's interior minister said on Saturday.
Sheik Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa told reporters that those arrested have been trained in weapons and explosives in Syria and were planning to attack commercial sites, the diplomatic district and night clubs in Manama on the Dec. 17 national holiday.
The tiny oil-refining and banking Gulf island is a close U.S. ally and also hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain was in contact with Syria over the possible presence of a militant cell on its territory and there had been several requests for information, the minister said.
"Because we are care about our relationships, we are going to discuss with our brothers how to coordinate efforts to prevent misuse of Syria for illegal activities," he said.
Syrian authorities could not be reach for comment.
The leaders of the cell, said Al Khalifa, are two Bahrainis residing in London. He did not give any further details about them.
The minister said that suspects traveled to Syria as tourists in July and August and then met with one of the two cell leaders.
"There they received intensive training on making explosives, bombs, how to use them and how to make car bombs," the minister told reporters.
"This plot is dangerous, not only because it is related to sabotage or aggression but because it is related to training and carrying out terrorist attacks," he said.
Police stormed houses of the 14 suspects, confiscated explosives, according to the minister who also said that all of them have confessed and have given detailed account of their plans.
Two of the 14 were arrested early on Dec. 18 and face the same charges.
Their lawyer said earlier that his clients were members of the country's Shiite Muslim majority.
Bahrain has seen unrest has recently as last December when the country's Shiites staged widespread protests, fueled in part by economic disparities between the predominantly Sunni ruling elite and the country's poorer, Shiite majority.
Dec. 17 marks the anniversary of the day Bahrain's king accession to power in 1999.