MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini security forces clashed with anti-government protesters after Wednesday morning prayers, and a 14-year-old boy died after being hit by a police tear gas canister, human rights activists said.
The activists blamed police for the death of Ali Jawad Ahmad, who was in the crowd of protesters in the oil hub of Sitra.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights cited witnesses as saying the boy died after being hit by a tear gas canister fired at close range by police during the demonstration.
Bahraini officials confirmed a 14-year-old was killed but gave no other details on the possible cause of death.
A statement by the Interior Ministry said there was no reported police action in Sitra at the time the boy's death was reported. The statement added that an investigation was ordered and posted a 10,000 dinar ($26,600) reward for information leading to a definitive finding.
Isa Hassan, an uncle of the dead teen, claimed police overreacted when confronted by a small group of protesters after morning prayers marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Hassan said the tear gas was fired from about 20 feet (seven meters) away directly at the protesters.
"They are supposed to lob the canisters of gas, not shoot them at people," he said at the funeral for the boy. "Police used it as a weapon."
In a report late Wednesday, Bahrain's official news agency said the autopsy showed a "neck injury was the cause of (the boy's) death, as there were fractures in that area causing bleeding around the spinal cord." The report by the Bahrain News Agency also said that the young protester had bruises on his chin, face, right hand, pelvic area and knees.
Bahrain has been gripped by clashes between police and Shiite-led protesters demanding greater rights and political freedoms in the tiny Gulf nation that is the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
More than 30 people have been killed since protests began in February inspired by other uprisings across the Arab world.
Shiites are the majority in Bahrain but claim widespread discrimination by the ruling Sunni dynasty. Sunni rulers in the Gulf fear any concessions by Bahrain's Al Khalifa family to protesters would strengthen the region's Shiite powerhouse Iran.
Small-scale clashes between police and mostly Shiite demonstrators have become a near nightly event in the tense Gulf nation since authorities lifted emergency rule in June.