DUBAI — Bahraini police fired tear gas grenades to disperse protesters, killing a Shiite protester in the Sunni-ruled country where tensions have been running high, the opposition said on Sunday.
Meanwhile the newly-appointed police chief said 500 officers would be recruited across the country, including Shiites, to help bolster community relations as the country tries to “learn lessons” from past unrest.
Sayyed Hashem Saeed, 15, “was hit in the head,” and a man who rushed to help him during Saturday’s clash was struck in the thigh, said the Al-Wefaq Shiite opposition movement in a statement received by AFP.
The teenager was rushed to a clinic in Sitra south of Manama and then transferred to a hospital in the capital where he died despite efforts to keep him alive, it added.
Authorities said they were investigating the death of the teenager.
A former lawmaker from the opposition group had said earlier that Bahraini riot police broke up a demonstration by Shiites who had responded to a call to protest outside their homes on Saturday.
Matar Matar said the opposition February 14 movement “got broad participation in their initiative when they asked Bahrainis to stand in front of their houses.”
Authorities had accused protesters of ambushing a police patrol on Friday near Sitra village and of throwing Molotov cocktails at police and said several suspects were arrested after a police vehicle was damaged.
Shiite-led mass demonstrations which rocked Bahrain earlier this 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.
New police chief Tariq al-Hassan said the force was determined to make a fresh start, based on BICI recommendations, in a New Year message released by the state-run Information Affairs Authority
“The task now after the BICI report is to look at where we’ve gone wrong, to face our mistakes and learn lessons,” Hassan said in the statement.
“The first part is to reinforce our relationship with the community and also enhance our performance and capabilities with training.
“We’re going to find 500 men and women from all local communities in Bahrain to reinforce our community service police and they will be our conduit with the community as well.”
Hassan also stressed that he will not tolerate any police abuse and that rule of law would prevail in Bahrain.
“I am determined to make people understand that we have a responsibility to insure that whoever breaks the law will be held accountable, whether it is a private citizen or a policeman,” he added.
On Thursday Bahrain authorities announced that five police officers accused over the death by torture of two detainees, linked to last year’s anti-regime protests, would face trial later this month.
“We are here to make sure that there is rule of law in Bahrain, but we will be doing that while working with the community and in partnership with them.”
Bahrain’s Shiite community, although a majority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, has complained of marginalisation and says that Shiites are being denied jobs in the country’s security services.