MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Riot police in Bahrain fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades as they clashed Sunday with hundreds of opposition supporters, some hurling Molotov cocktails, following the politically charged funeral of a 15-year-old boy.
Thousands of opposition supporters carrying Bahraini flags and chanting anti-government slogans converged on the island of Sitra, south of the capital Manama, to mourn the death of Sayed Hashim Saeed. They are demanding that police be tried for the deaths of some 40 people since protests began in February.
Police earlier tried to seal off the site of the funeral to prevent crowds from gathering.
The clash on Sitra marks the latest burst of violence in more than 10 months of confrontations and widespread street protests on the strategic Gulf island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The country’s Shiite-led opposition is pressing for greater rights and reforms from the country’s Sunni monarchy.
The opposition says the teenager died Saturday after a tear gas canister fired at close range hit him in the chest.
Jaffer al-Sheik, 40, who identified himself as a relative of Saeed, said after the funeral that the boy died while participating in a protest march. He said the canister fired by riot police caused burns on Saeed’s chest arm and head.
The Interior Ministry has raised questions about the circumstances of Saeed’s death, saying that burns on the boy’s body could not have come from a tear gas canister. It has asked the public prosecutor to investigate.
A statement signed by six opposition groups condemned Sunday’s attack on the funeral procession.
“We reaffirm our commitment to nonviolence,” the statement said. “We call on the government to stop its policy of repression… and bring to trial those accused to respond to the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people.”
Also Sunday, Bahrain’s new police chief announced that the kingdom would hire an additional 500 police officers “from all sections of Bahrain society,” according to a statement from the country’s Information Affairs Authority. The official, Tariq Alhassan, said the extra officers would work only in communities from where they were recruited.
Bahrain’s Shiites have long complained of systematic discrimination that largely keeps them out of state security forces and top government jobs.
The government has vowed to undertake reforms following the release of a report in November that outlined human rights abuses carried out by the government during this year’s unrest.
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