The security situation in Bahrain deteriorated somewhat early in the year but showed signs of improvement at year's end. Antiregime unrest was generally limited, with a few notable exceptions. In the worst incident, seven South Asians were killed in a 14 March arson attack on a restaurant. On 1 July three Bahrainis were convicted and sentenced to death, and five others received lengthy prison sentences for this incident. There were several other attacks, including some using small bombs and incendiary devices. Most of the unrest has consisted of burning tires, exploding propane gas cylinders, and acts of vandalism. Security forces, in return, have conducted a crackdown, killing more than 20 Bahrainis and arresting more than 2,000 since the unrest began in November 1994. At the end of 1996 the scope and intensity of the unrest diminished, though this may be temporary.
Only two incidents directly involved US citizens. On 28 August a US student rented a car that had an improvised incendiary device in the gas tank. The device failed to operate. On 16 September a US citizen's car, parked in front of a luxury hotel in downtown Manama, was firebombed. In neither case, however, does it appear the US citizens were targeted because of their nationality.
Manama in June publicly announced the discovery of an active Bahraini Hizballah cell that was recruited, trained, and supported by Iran. Diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Iran have been strained since the announcement. Bahrain retaliated by recalling its ambassador from Tehran and by restricting commercial services and air transportation between the two countries.