Clashes break out in Bahrain after teen's death

Story highlights

  • A funeral is held for a 16-year-old protester struck and killed by a police car
  • Clashes between opposition protesters and security forces break out
  • The government disputes claims police purposely drove into a crowd of protesters
  • A commission is due to release a report on the government's response to the unrest
Clashes broke out across Bahrain on Saturday between security forces and opposition demonstrators after the funeral for a teenage boy who was struck and killed by a police car earlier in the day, eyewitnesses said.
The unrest occurred just days before a commission set up by King Hamad al-Khalifa is due to present its findings on the government's response to demonstrations held since February in the tiny but strategically critical nation that is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing a police car run over 16-year-old Ali Al-Badah, who was participating in an overnight protest in Juffair, a suburb of the capital Manama. At least one other protester was also injured in the incident.
The Interior Ministry disputed opposition claims that police purposely drove the car into a crowd of protesters, saying the anti-riot police unit was ambushed by demonstrators and lost control after driving on an oil slick spilled by the opposition.
Al-Badah's funeral attracted thousands despite police attempts to seal off the village where it was held.
Protesters directed their anger at the king with chants calling for the end of his reign. Many waved large posters describing the Sunni king as a killer of children.
Clashes following the funeral quickly spread to other parts of the country, amid reports of a heavy-handed police response. In one instance, a Shiite mosque was targeted by security forces, leaving parts of it damaged, according to the Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq. The group said that scores of people had been injured by security forces on Friday and Saturday.
Protests demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shiite majority Bahrain began on February 14 before authorities -- backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- cracked down on the demonstrations, first in February and later in mid-March.
More than 30 people have been killed during the protests. Opposition groups say more than 1,000 people -- mainly Shiites -- have been detained and more than 2,000 have lost their jobs for allegedly taking part in the demonstrations.
Bahrain's government has consistently defended its actions, saying they were justified and stressing the need to maintain public security.
The nation's king has set up the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the events -- and consequences -- from earlier this year. Its report is set to be released Wednesday.