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Terror threat reports 'baseless'

A GOVERNMENT minister has moved to reassure the public - describing reports of an imminent terrorist attack in Bahrain as baseless.

Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab told the GDN there was no truth to the rumours and accused those behind them of seeking to spread fear in the community.

She was responding to suggestions that extremists were planning to detonate a bomb in Manama during the height of the Ashoora religious festival, which climaxes this weekend.

"They (those behind the rumours) are trying to create panic and chaos by spreading these rumours on social media websites," said Ms Rajab.

The rumours have appeared in Arabic and English on sites such as Twitter and Facebook - and are now being circulated by e-mail and text message by worried members of the public.

"Intelligence sources revealed from Shi'ites that on the night of the ninth or tenth (of Ashoora), there will be a huge bomb in central Manama in order to blame the state for escalation," said one Facebook warning, which had already received 133 "likes" yesterday.

It follows a spate of explosions in Gudaibiya and Adliya on November 5, which killed Indian Thirunavukarasu Murugaiyan, 29, and 33-year-old Bangladeshi Shajib Mian Shukur Mian.

One of the five blasts that day also injured Indian sanitation worker Dhana Ram Sainin, who is still recovering in hospital.

Ms Rajab said it appeared rumours of an imminent bombing were being started to stoke panic.

"I would like the media to be careful in dealing with such speculative reports as they are not true," she said.

"If anyone wants authentic information or news they should follow the Interior Ministry's Twitter account (@moi_bahrain)."

Meanwhile, she hoped a new law that punished those who misused social media would be passed soon.

It would allow authorities to clamp down on anyone who spreads sectarianism, hatred or seeks to polarise the community online. The law is being brought in as a result of people spreading false news during last year's unrest.

"There is a law that has been drafted and submitted to lawmakers," said Ms Rajab.

"Once it is implemented it will deal with cyber crime and misuse of social media by some people."

The GDN reported on August 1 that the Bahrain Bloc had announced a voluntary "code of honour" for social media users.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation into last year's unrest by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded that social media had been used to spread misinformation.

"The Commission found numerous examples of exaggeration and misinformation - some highly inflammatory - that were disseminated through social media," the BICI report stated.

There are currently more than 340,000 active Facebook users and more than 60,000 people on Twitter in Bahrain, according to latest Social Media Club Bahrain figures.

sandy@gdn.com.bh



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