Police firing tear gas clashed with hundreds of stone-throwing youths in Bahrain on Saturday in heightened unrest that could complicate new efforts to end political deadlock in the strategically placed Gulf Arab kingdom.
The violence has clouded the atmosphere around talks begun on Feb. 10 between the mostly Shiite Muslim opposition and the Sunni Muslim-dominated government to find a way out of the impasse over Shiite demands for more democracy.
Witnesses said the confrontation, in which some of the hundreds of opposition demonstrators also threw gasoline bombs at police, followed the funeral of a teenager the opposition said was killed in clashes between police and activists on Thursday. The disturbance in the village of Sanabis, west of the capital, Manama, was the latest in a series of skirmishes between Shiite youths and police since Thursday, when opposition activists commemorated the second anniversary of a pro-democracy revolt in the US-allied state.
The kingdom, base for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in political turmoil since the protests erupted in 2011, led by majority Shiites demanding an end to the monarchy’s political domination and full powers for parliament.
Thirty-five people died during the unrest and two months of martial law that followed, the government said, although the opposition puts that number at more than 80. The government has accused opposition groups of being linked to Shiite power Iran.
Bahrain remains volatile, and its Shiite villages are the scene of almost daily clashes between youths and police.
The next round of talks is meant to happen on Wednesday, said Isa Abdul Rahman, the spokesman for the process, known as the National Dialogue.
The next gathering had been due to take place yesterday, but at a session of the talks on Wednesday last week, all participants decided to postpone the meeting to Wednesday, he said.
Earlier on Saturday, police found a bomb planted on a busy causeway linking the Gulf island to Saudi Arabia, and four officers were shot and wounded in a village, officials said.
The 2kg bomb, discovered on Thursday near a mosque on the Bahraini end of the route used by thousands of people a day, was safely defused, the Bahraini Information Authority said.
Late on Friday, four officers were hit by birdshot pellets in the Shiite village of Karzakan, the authority added, quoting public security chief Major General Tariq Hassan al-Hassan.
Bahrain denies accusations of discrimination against Shiite citizens and accuses Iran of stirring up trouble in the kingdom, something the Islamic Republic denies.
The Bahraini Ministry of the Interior said on Thursday a security official had been killed in a “terrorist attack” using what it said was an inflammable projectile, according to a statement on its Twitter account.