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The damaged municipality building

$1.3m arson attack damage in Bahraini govt office

MANAMA, October 24, 2014

Masked men who broke into a government office in Bahrain and set it ablaze last week caused damage worth more than BD500,000 ($1.3 million), it has been revealed.

The Jidhafs Municipality building was targeted on October 16 and it has emerged that most of the original documentation stored there has been lost, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Meanwhile, irreparable damage to computer networks means any online applications or requests submitted by the public were also destroyed in the attack, which coincided with candidate registration for next month's election that is being boycotted by opposition groups.

Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi revealed the extent of the damage during a Press conference yesterday at the Information Affairs Authority, in Isa Town.

He said a security guard who tried to stop the culprits was attacked and required hospital treatment.

Experts are now due to assess the building structure on Sunday to determine whether it has to be completely torn down or if it can be renovated.

“A terrorist group targeted the Jidhafs Municipality at around 10.30pm on October 16, damaging everything inside the building including documents, money, computers and equipment '“ severely damaging the building's stability,” said Dr Al Ka'abi.

“The security guard was attacked in the process and had to be admitted to hospital as he tried bravely to stop them.

“The worst thing is that the municipality serves 62 blocks, which is around 60,000 people - locals and expatriates - who now have to start from scratch with their applications, especially the 300 pending applications that were sitting on desks that day awaiting approval after the weekend.

“There are 100 people visiting the municipality every day and there are exceptional cases that require special review, which are also pending, besides permits that are stored in the system awaiting renewal or granted initial approval.”

A video screened during yesterday's press conference showed six masked men entering the building, dousing the interior with flammable substances and torching it.

Dr Al Ka'abi said the office was part of the Northern Municipality and handled 13,000 applications every year for permits relating to construction, remodelling, electricity and water connections and Commercial Registrations (CRs).

Hassle

“The best thing is that our staff were not in the building because lives would certainly have been lost,” said Dr Al Ka'abi.

“The building's 70 staff have now been divided between the Hamad Town, Budaiya and Saar municipalities and the Northern Municipal Council, with plans to rent out another building elsewhere until the damaged building reopens.

“The Hamad Town and Budaiya municipalities will accept applications, both old and new, from people in Jidhafs until the situation is resolved.

“We are sorry that people will have to relive the hassle of getting signatures and stamps (to resubmit applications).”

He said the incident followed a series of attacks on municipal property and staff following the outbreak of unrest in 2011.

“We (the ministry) have lost BD6 million until now, excluding this incident, through arson attacks on garbage containers, damage to vehicles and even attacks on cleaners and other municipal officials,” he explained.

“It is clear those behind these acts want to destabilise the country, target its peace, security and stability - and harm the elections and those taking part in it.

“Terrorist groups and those backing them have to realise that Bahrain is for all and if it burns, all will burn.”

He also urged parents to ensure their children did not get involved with violent anti-government groups.

“We can't just ask the Interior Ministry to toughen up security because then all buildings in Bahrain would need police protection and this will take us nowhere,” he said.

“We need people, parents first, to direct their children to righteousness.”

The Northern Municipal Council, which is controlled by opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, condemned the incident in a statement on Saturday.

However, on Sunday masked thugs also tried to blow up a petrol station on Budaiya Highway by spraying the forecourt with fuel and setting it alight.

The attempt was foiled by staff who cut off supplies to the pumps. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | government | office | blaze | men | masked |

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