MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahraini police fired teargas and stun grenades at hundreds of protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs in a Shi‘ite Muslim village on Friday after the funeral of a young man who died in custody, a Reuters witness said.
The Gulf Arab nation, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has suffered low-level civil unrest since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shi‘ites demanding reforms and a bigger share of power in the Sunni-led island kingdom.
Jaafar Mohammed Jaafar, 23, who was detained in December and accused of smuggling weapons, died of illness in custody on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said, the second death of a person held on security-related charges this year.
Rights campaigners have not disputed that Jaafar had died as a result of an illness, but the main opposition al-Wefaq group said he had been denied medical treatment, and one activist said he had been tortured, accusations the ministry has denied.
Thousands of people attended Jaafar’s funeral in the village of Daih, west of the capital Manama.
Protesters later threw rocks, metal rods and petrol bombs at riot police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Interior Ministry said on its Twitter feed: “Police dispersed a breakaway group of vandals that diverted from the funeral route in Daih.” It gave no further details.
Demonstrations and clashes with security forces erupt frequently in Bahrain, while negotiations between the government and opposition aimed at ending the unrest have stalled.
Friday’s violence may sour a new attempt to restart talks between the ruling al-Khalifa family and opposition groups.
The authorities say they have rolled out some reforms and are willing to discuss further demands, but the opposition says there can be no progress until the government is chosen by elected representatives, rather than by the king.
Earlier this month a policeman was killed by an explosion at a protest to mark the third anniversary of Bahrain’s uprising.
Reporting by Farishta Saeed; writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Alistair Lyon