A TEENAGER was killed and dozens of protesters injured yesterday when Bahraini security forces clashed with demonstrators on the second anniversary of an uprising demanding democratic reforms.
Several hundred people, mostly Shiite youths, took to the streets yesterday in the Gulf Arab state of 1.3 million people, opposition activists said.
They blocked roads around the capital Manama and hurled stones and fire bombs at police, who responded with birdshot and tear gas, witnesses said.
Security forces confirmed they had fired warning shots at the crowds and one young man had been killed in the protests, which began in the early morning and lasted most of the day.
Opposition groups in Bahrain have demanded that the ruling al-Thani dynasty relinquish much of its sweeping authority over the country’s affairs, including picking all key government and military posts. The prime minister is Hamad al-Thani.
Sunni leaders have made some concessions, including handing more oversight power to the elected parliament. But many Shiite protesters say that falls short of their goals for deep reforms in how Bahrain is governed. Observers, including the United States, have supported dialogue and stood by Bahrain’s leaders so as not to jeopardise critical military ties and its relations with other Gulf Arab nations, including neighbouring Saudi Arabia. But Washington has increasingly criticised tough measures by Bahraini authorities, including stripping 31 Shiites of citizenship and keeping other opposition leaders behind bars.
The clashes were the most violent in recent months and could mar talks that began on Sunday between mostly Shiite Muslim opposition groups and the Sunni-dominated government to try to end political deadlock.
Bahrain has seen almost daily demonstrations in the run-up to the anniversary of the revolt, which has put the kingdom on the front line of a region-wide tussle for influence between Shi’ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.
Mass protests that erupted in February 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring were crushed, but small demonstrations demanding greater rights for Bahrain’s Shiite majority and an end to the absolute power of the al-Thani dynasty Sunni ruling family have continued.
Bahrain’s chief of public security, Brigadier-General Tariq al-Hassan, said last night that police had fired warning shots to disperse a crowd that had attacked them with fire bombs, stones and iron rods, injuring several, some seriously.
“Officers discharged birdshot to defend themselves. At least one rioter was injured in the process. A short time later, a young man was pronounced dead at Salmaniya Medical Centre,” he said in a statement.
He said several members of the force involved in the incident were being investigated to determine the circumstances of the death.
The main opposition group Wefaq said the youth was Ali Ahmed Ibrahim al-Jazeeri, a 16-year-old Shiite, and said he had been killed in the village of Diya, near Manama.
It said dozens of others had been hurt, some seriously, and posted pictures of casualties, including a photograph of the dead youth with bandages on his abdomen.
Wefaq said there had also been a confrontation on Sitra island, south of Manama.