Bahrain King Recruited al-Qaeda to Assassinate Shi’ite Opposition

Kill list included key 2011 protest leaders

As part of trying to mop up the 2011 Arab Spring protests in Bahrain, the Bahrain King ordered members of his government to recruit al-Qaeda commanders to form a secret cell to assassinate members of Bahrain’s Shi’ite-dominated pro-Democracy opposition.

According to a new documentary, three Bahraini intelligence officers were given direct orders from King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa on this matter, and the king personally intervened when one of his al-Qaeda assassins, Mohammed Saleh, was arrested in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to directly recruiting from al-Qaeda, Bahrain also sent officers to Iran to try to recruit members of the Jundallah terrorist group that operates a violent insurgency in southeastern Iran. The kill list included prominent opposition figures who organized the 2011 protests.

The 2011 protests in Bahrain centered on trying to get more representation for elected officials, and demanded equal treatment for all citizens, noting historical exclusion of Shi’ites from certain professions. After roughly a month of protests, a state of emergency was declared and Saudi Arabian forces entered the country to enforce an end to demonstrations.

The Bahraini government, however, appears to have carried on a vendetta against the organizers well beyond this. Retired CIA officer John Kiraikou said intelligence on the matter also mentioned three Saudi royal family members. Efforts to contact the Saudis failed, however, as by the time the CIA called, they had “disappeared and their bodies were later found in the desert.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.