Molotov cocktails thrown by al-Ashtar Brigade protesters burn in Daih village in Bahrain in 2014. File photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United States listed Bahrain-based, IRGC proxy al-Ashtar Brigade as a "terrorist" organization, claiming that the group received training at camps in Iraq and are funded by the Islamic Regime.
"Al-Ashtar is yet another in a long line of Iranian sponsored terrorists who kill on behalf of a corrupt regime. Today’s designation serves notice that the United States sees plainly what Iran is trying to do to Bahrain through its proxy, the terrorist group Al-Ashtar," Nathan Sales, the US State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, stated on Wednesday.
He added that the group in January 2018 adopted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) branding.
"Additionally, AAB members have received weapons and explosives from Iran, training at IRGC-funded camps in Iraq, and senior AAB members have taken refuge in Iran to evade prosecution by Bahraini authorities," said Sales.
The United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt designated the group as a terrorist organization in 2017.
The United States and the United Kingdom have enjoyed close ties to the tiny, but strategic island nation with large navy bases in the Persian Gulf.
Bahraini state media said the Kingdom expressed its gratitude for the designation.
"Al-Ashtar Brigades has claimed responsibility for numerous vicious attacks against innocent civilians, and security personnel, causing significant damage to public and private property," the Bahrain News Agency reported.
Following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly has threatened to sanction Iran's "malign activities" across the Middle East.
AAB is the first Iran-backed Shiite militia to be sanctioned by this US administration in Iraq. Through the ISIS conflict, powerful Iran-backed paramilitaries also received equipment from the Government of Iraq.
A group of US congressmen called for greater oversight for weapons provided to Iraq and a rethinking of State Department policy in November 2017 after photos emerged of a Hezbollah flag raised above an M1 Abrams tank. The US has halted repair contracts for the Abrams, following violations of end-user agreements.