Middle East

Bahrain opposition says dozens injured in police clashes

Flames are seen from a thrown molotov thrown by protesters in front of riot police during clashes in the village of Sitra south of Manama, January 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)

DUBAI: Bahrain's security forces fired tear gas at anti-government protesters and beat them with iron bars leaving dozens injured, human rights activists and the opposition said on Monday.

The violence erupted Sunday night in the town of Sitra after the funeral of 15-year-old Sayyed Hashem Saeed, who the opposition says was killed when he was struck on the head by a tear gas canister fired by security forces the previous day.

Another teenager, Hani al-Qanish, was also seriously wounded Sunday by a direct hit to the head by a tear gas canister, former opposition MP Matar Matar told AFP.

Opposition human rights activist Nabil Rajab said riot police used tear gas and iron bars to disperse the crowds that had gathered in Sitra after Said's funeral procession.

"Dozens of people were injured and treated for tear gas inhalation but they all sought treatment in homes by volunteer doctors, because they feared being arrested if they went to the hospital", Rajab told AFP adding that the police beat some of the protesters with "iron bars."

The Bahrain news agency, quoting police officials, said that "a group of saboteurs took to the streets in an illegal march and committed acts of sabotage, blocking public roads with garbage bins and hurling stones, iron bars and Molotov cocktails at the security forces."

Shiite-led anti-government protests have escalated in recent weeks, with almost daily clashes taking place with police and security officials in Shiite towns and villages on the outskirts of the capital.

On Sunday, officials announced the arrest of 11 "saboteurs" in connection with the latest unrest.

Shiite-led mass demonstrations which rocked Bahrain early last year were violently crushed by government forces using live ammunition and heavy-handed tactics.

A special commission appointed to probe last year's crackdown on anti-government protests published a report in November denouncing the "excessive and unjustified use of force" by the authorities.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) said 35 people were killed in the unrest, including five security personnel, and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody. Hundreds were also injured.

Bahrain's newly-appointed police chief said Sunday that 500 officers would be recruited across the country, including Shiites, to help bolster community ties as the country tries to "learn lessons" from past unrest.





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