By James M. Dorsey
Iran summoned Bahrain's envoy to Tehran to protest what it called mistreatment of Iranian soccer players and supporters following am Iranian-Bahraini 2014 World Cup qualifier in Manama.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed its “discontent and regret” to the unnamed Bahraini diplomat about mistreatment of the players and "the inaction of Bahraini security forces present at the match," according to the official IRNA news agency.
Bahraini supporters reportedly threw water bottles at Iranian players as they were leaving the field after the politically laden match, according to Bahraini activists. Bahrainis waved Saudi flags alongside the Bahraini flag in recognition of Saudi support for the government’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests early this year. Bahrain has accused Iran of instigating the protests.
The return match in the Bahraini capital ended in a 1:1 draw after Iran thrashed Bahrain 6:0 in their first round in Tehran. The result left Iran leading Group E in Asia with eight points from four matches while Bahrain remained third on five points.
Earlier, the Iranian Football Federation complained to world soccer body FIFA that Iranian fans and journalists who had been given visas to attend the match had been barred entry at Bahrain’s airport and forced to return to Iran.
The Bahraini diplomat was summoned hours before Bahrain accused Iran inciting a terrorist cell to target its interior ministry, the Saudi embassy and a causeway linking the island state with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Four Bahraini members of the cell were detained by authorities in neighbouring Qatar after they entered the Gulf Arab state from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s state news agency BNA quoted an interior ministry spokesman as saying.
The four had documents and a computer that included details on vital installations, BNA said.
"The Qatari security authorities questioned the suspects and enquiries in Qatar revealed that the suspects had illegally left Bahrain after being incited by others to head to Iran, passing through Qatar and Syria, to establish a group that carries out armed terrorist operations in Bahrain against vital establishments and individuals," BNA reported.
The agency said the four carried unspecified sums of foreign currency, including U.S. dollars and Iranian rials, and had flights booked to Syria.
BNA said the four suspects gave information about a fifth member of the group in Bahrain, who was also arrested.