Bahraini riot police killed a teenager when they fired shotgun pellets during clashes with protesters following a demonstration on Friday, the country’s opposition said yesterday, the second young protester to die in six weeks.
Security forces opened fire yesterday to disperse angry Shiite protesters following the funeral of the youth. Several protesters were wounded as police fired shotguns, as well as stun grenades, to disperse protesters after thousands of mourners took part in the funeral of 17-year-old Ali Hussein Nemat in the village of Sadad, outside Manama, witnesses said. Images posted online by Al-Wefaq Shiite opposition showed thousands of men and black-clad women marching behind the coffin of the teenage boy.
Thousands rallied on Friday in an officially authorised protest called by the main opposition group Al-Wefaq, but as the event ended around 100 demonstrators clashed with police. Witnesses on Friday said riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse those demonstrators, who, the authorities said, were throwing petrol bombs and wielding iron bars. The police described the incident after the protest as a “terrorist attack” on a security patrol that “targeted the lives of members of the patrol” late on Friday evening. The police had defended themselves “according to their legal authority”, a statement said, confirming one of the protesters had died. Bahrain, headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since mass demonstrations started at the height of Arab Spring unrest last year, led by its Shiite majority. The protests were put down by the Sunni monarchy which imposed martial law and invited Saudi Arabia to send troops in support.
In mid-August a 16-year-old protester was killed in a similar incident, when police opened fire with birdshot during clashes after a demonstration, opposition activists said. The opposition says more than 45 people have been killed in protests since martial law was lifted in June 2011. The Interior Ministry says protesters have injured more than 700 police officers and that the authorities have exercised restraint. Al-Wefaq distributed photographs show a body covered in blood and flecked with birdshot wounds. The pictures could not be independently verified.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of fomenting the unrest in the island kingdom and among Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, who mostly live in a province situated next to Bahrain. Iran denies the accusations. The death comes a day after the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Bahraini as the Asia representative to its advisory committee.
Separately, a Saudi teenager has died of wounds sustained four days ago in a police raid that killed a wanted Shiite man and a companion in oil-rich Eastern Province, relatives said yesterday. Saudi authorities informed the family of Hasan Zahiri, 16, that he succumbed to injuries, the relatives said, raising the death toll of the attack on a house in the Shiite village of Al-Awamiya to three. Security forces had tracked down Khalid Al-Labad to a house in Al-Awamiya, in the Qatif district, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. It said a gun battle erupted when police attempted to arrest the man who figured on a list of 23 Shiites wanted in connection with unrest.
Labad and a comrade were shot dead, while “two of the gunmen with him were wounded and a third was arrested”, the ministry said. Since early 2011, mainly Shiite towns in Eastern Province have seen sporadic protests and confrontations between police and marginalised Shiites who are estimated to number some two million in the Sunni-dominated kingdom. Unrest erupted after an outbreak of violence between Shiite pilgrims and religious police in the holy city of Madinah in Feb 2011.
The protests escalated when the kingdom led a force of Gulf troops into neighbouring Bahrain the following month to help crush Shiite-led pro-democracy protests against its Sunni-minority monarchy. Human rights groups say more than 600 people have been arrested since spring 2011, most of them in Qatif. The majority have since been released.