MANAMA // Clashes broke out yesterday at the funeral of a teenager killed in demonstrations to mark the second anniversary of Bahrain's uprising, with police firing tear gas to disperse mourners, witnesses said.
The security forces blocked access to the funeral of Hussein Al Jazeeri in the Shiite village of Daih near the capital Manama, firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse dozens of people trying to push their way through.
Al Jazeeri died on Thursday after being shot in the stomach by security forces, according to Al Wefaq, Bahrain's main Shiite opposition bloc, during protests against the kingdom's Sunni rulers, in which a policeman also died.
Earlier, the authorities said four people were arrested after an overnight attack on security forces that injured four policemen.
"An on-duty officer and three non-commissioned policemen were injured ... by birdshot ammunition fired by a group of people in [the village of] Karzakan," a statement from the country's chief of public security read. "The police fired back in self-defence."
Opposition groups are calling for a constitutional monarchy, arguing that their community has faced decades of discrimination.
"On the anniversary of the revolution, the regime turned Bahrain into a kind of military barracks," a coalition of six opposition groups said in a statement released during a rally on Friday that attracted tens of thousands.
"The regime brutally repressed peaceful protests and spread terror among innocent neighbourhoods."
But the government rejects the claim and has accused the opposition of inciting violent demonstrations.
One protester and one policeman were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces on Thursday. Opposition groups said that about a dozen more demonstrators suffered minor injuries.
Thousands of mourners yesterday attended the funeral of Al Jazeeri, who authorities confirmed was killed by birdshot gun wounds.
"We want them to be in court, those who are responsible," said Bushra, 29, a cousin of Al Jazeeri who joined an opposition protest on Friday.
The country's chief of public security, Maj Gen Tariq Hassan Al Hassan, warned the opposition on Thursday "not to exploit the young man's death for political purposes or as an excuse to engage in criminal or riotous behaviour".
The funeral of the deceased police officer, 23-year-old Mohammed Asif Khan, also took place on Friday.
The turmoil in Bahrain comes at a sensitive time for the country's political future. Last week, the government opened talks with opposition and loyalist parties aimed at ending the political crisis. It was unclear how casualties over the weekend would affect the talks, which are set to resume on Wednesday.
Analysts said that rising tensions and a floundering economy have added urgency to the negotiations.
"Security forces think they can manage the ongoing crisis, and they can," said Michael Stephens, an analyst who follows Bahrain at the Royal United Services Institute in Doha. "But the country itself can't handle much more."
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse