DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The Islamic State group is calling on its followers to launch attacks in Bahrain and to target American military personnel stationed on the tiny island ahead of a visit by the U.S. defense secretary.
The appeal came in a video that also urges militants to attack the Sunni-ruled island’s Shiite majority, amid a widescale government crackdown on dissent.
In a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, Bahrain’s government said it “remains vigilant against terrorist activities and extremism.”
It’s been five years since Bahrain’s 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw Shiites and others demand more political freedoms from the ruling Al Khalifa family. The government put down the demonstrations with help from Saudi and Emirati troops, and later pledged to carry out reforms.
In the time since, sectarianism has grown on the island and the Sunni-dominated government is in the midst of a crackdown on unrest at a level unseen since 2011.
Authorities have suspended the country’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general. Human rights activists, Shiite leaders and others have been imprisoned, lost their citizenship or been forced into exile.
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