Iran-backed militias say US sailors in Bahrain are ‘legitimate targets’

MANAMA, Bahrain (Dec. 2, 2019) Mark VI Patrol Boats assigned to Commander, Task Force 56 participate in a high value asset (HVA) escort transit of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) after a port visit in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 2. This event highlights one of many core competencies that the Coastal Riverine Force provides in support of 5th Fleet operations. Commander, Task Force 56 is responsible for the planning and execution of expeditionary missions - including coastal riverine operations - in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kory Alsberry)

The island nation of Bahrain is in the sights of Shiite militias loyal to Iran, creating a predicament for US Sailors stationed there.

The tiny nation is home to Naval Support Activity Bahrain, and a duty station for many Sailors, who live amongst the locals outside the secure walls of their workplace.

Bahrain is also home to several Iran-backed militias, who are no doubt seething over the January 3 U.S. drone strike that killed Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

As such, the Navy’s 5th Fleet -stationed on the little island- runs the risk of being attacked by local militias sympathetic to Iran.

According to the Navy Times, one terror cell, known as al-Ashtar, has promised to we “play a role and take a position in avenging the precious blood of the righteous martyrs.”

The group has claimed responsibility for over 20 bombings since 2013, and have historically been geared towards overthrowing the local government.

Should the cell change the tempo and seek out Navy families in the country, such a mission would not be difficult, particularly since a large number of military families live outside the security of the US bases.

“If you’re looking at it through that lens, Bahrain seems to be a fairly ripe target…based on the fact that service members live among the general population,” said RAND policy analyst Rebecca Wasser, who previously lived on the island. “It’s very easy, if any group wanted to, to target US military personnel. You walk five meters and there is a US service member.”

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