MANAMA (Reuters) - A Bahraini man died on Friday from shotgun pellet wounds sustained during clashes with police almost two months ago, rights activists said, becoming the first person to be killed in such circumstances since February last year.
Rights campaigners said Abdul-Aziz al-Abbar, 27, was hit by a teargas canister and shotgun pellets fired by riot police at a funeral procession. It is not uncommon in Bahrain for funerals to turn into public expressions of discontent, sometimes leading to clashes with police.
One pellet penetrated al-Abbar’s brain and another his eye and he was in a coma in hospital until his death, rights activists said.
“Al-Abbar has been martyred today (Friday), after police directly shot his head on February 23,” said the main opposition al-Wefaq on its Twitter feed.
Another group, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said: “Initial reports indicate that the shooting of al-Abbar was by police officers standing at close range.”
Officials from the government’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) and the Public Prosecution office contacted by Reuters via telephone and email could not be reached for comment on Friday, a day off in Bahrain.
The Gulf Arab nation, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has suffered low-level civil unrest since mass protests in 2011 by the Shi‘ite community demanding reforms and a bigger share of power in the Sunni-led island kingdom.
The authorities quelled the 2011 uprising but many Shi‘ite areas are witnessing almost nightly clashes with police.
Sayed Hassan, Abbar’s cousin, told Reuters the death certificate said his cousin died from brain damage and blood flow problems, without specifying what caused this.
“We have refused to received the body until we get an (official) report that Abdul-Aziz died from shotgun pellets,” he said.
In March, three policemen were killed by a bomb during a protest in a village west of Manama, in one of the worst incidents of violence in recent months as bomb attacks on police have been on the rise.
(Corrects attribution of description of man’s wounds)
Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy