Over 20 in trial for “trying to set up an IS branch”

Twenty-four people face trial in Bahrain for trying to set up a branch of the Islamic State militant group and promoting the overthrow of the Gulf Arab state’s monarchy, the public prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

The new case was the first time Bahrain named the Sunni Islamic State in connection with alleged militancy inside the island kingdom, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet as a bulwark against Shi’ite Iran across the Gulf.

Eight of the 24 accused have been arrested and the rest remain at large, according to a statement by Public Prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi.

Other charges included weapons possession and conducting training in the use of explosives, it said.

The statement said prosecutors had evidence that one of the accused had recruited two others to join Islamic State and travel to Syria for training. The two recruits then convinced the rest to join through social media, it said.

Gulf states have grown worried about the spread of Islamic State militancy, especially concerning the return of their own nationals who have fought in wars in Iraq and Syria, parts of which are under Islamic State control.

Bahrain was swept by protests during the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings in which the Shi’ite majority demanded political reforms from the Sunni Muslim ruling family. Some Shi’ites faced accusations of militancy related to the unrest.