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Bahrain: Hundreds Mourn After Boy Is Killed In Demonstration

Bahrain Protests

11/19/11 01:56 PM ET   AP

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahraini authorities said Saturday a police vehicle skidded on an oil slick poured by anti-government protesters, killing a teenage demonstrator.

The death came days before international investigators were to release a report on the Shiite-led uprisings and the Sunni monarchy's punishing crackdowns in the Gulf kingdom.

An angry funeral procession for the 16-year-old was broken up by security forces firing tear gas in the latest sign of unwavering tensions after more than nine months of unrest.

Bahrain's majority Shiites have pressed for greater rights from the Sunni dynasty that is backed by neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab leaders. Bahrain's rulers have offered some concessions – including giving more powers to parliament – but have rebuffed demands to give up their control of top government posts and give up other privileges.

At least 35 people have died in the unrest. Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and Shiite professionals like lawyers, doctors and nurses also have been detained and tried on anti-state crimes in a special security court on the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The uncle of the dead teen, Ali Youssef Bagdar, told The Associated Press the boy died after a police vehicle ran over him during a demonstration early Saturday in Juffair area near the U.S. naval base. The uncle, Ibrahim Ali Bagdar, said he rushed to the area with the boy's father, but police cordoned the are off and would not let anybody near the site.

"Our boy was dead and they left him laying on the street for hours," the uncle said.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry said in a statement that the boy died "after he was hit by a police patrol car" that skidded into a group of protesters due to an oil spill on the road. The ministry said there were "rioters" on the street, committing "an act of vandalism" when the incident in Juffair occurred just before 1 a.m. Saturday.

"Shortly after midnight, vandals had poured oil on Al Shabab road, causing the driver of a police patrol car to lose control of the vehicle and hit the pedestrian, who died at the scene," the statement said, adding that authorities are further investigating the circumstances of the boy's death.

A report by The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which has been probing alleged abuses during the unrest, is scheduled to be released Wednesday.

The five-member panel is headed by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born professor of international criminal law and a former member of U.N. human rights panels. It was set up in July with the consent of Bahrain's rulers.

Over the past months, the panel received more than 8,000 complaints, testimonies and documents. Its members have interviewed more than 5,000 witnesses and alleged victims of the unrest, including detainees, police personnel, doctors and journalists.

Bahrain imposed martial law in March and invited 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors who accuse regional Shiite power Iran of aiding the unrest.

The U.S. State Department on Friday updated its travel alert on Bahrain, noting the "potential for unrest" and said all visitors face "increased scrutiny" from Bahraini authorities.

"Travel in and around Bahrain could become dangerous without advance warning," the announcement said.

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Bahraini demonstrators chant anti-government slogans during a march waving flags of Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia along with Bahraini flags in A'ali, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 18, 2011. Thousands of Shiite-led protesters calling for greater rights have streamed into an area outside the capital Manama. (AP)
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Filed by Eline Gordts  |