MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A young Bahraini man has died after being shot by police earlier this month, authorities and members of the political opposition in the Gulf nation said Sunday, even as they disagreed on the circumstances.
The death could inflame simmering tensions between the Shiite opposition and the Sunni monarchy at a time when efforts to revive fragile reconciliation talks are showing signs of progress in the island kingdom, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The al-Wefaq Shiite bloc said Fadhil Abbas Muslim, 19, was hit with live ammunition on Jan. 8 in the village of Markh, near the capital, Manama.
Muslim's family received no information about him or his whereabouts until his death was confirmed Sunday, al-Wefaq spokesman Hadi al Musawi said.
Al-Wefaq hailed him as a "martyr" and alleged he was shot by government forces "who acted with premeditation to kill."
Hundreds of mourners poured into the streets of the mostly Shiite village of Diraz, west of Manama, for his funeral Sunday afternoon, with many chanting anti-government slogans.
The man's father, Abbas Muslim, said in an interview that he was called early Sunday to collect the body. He described his son as innocent and insisted that he was uninvolved in political activities.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry said it was notified Saturday that Muslim died from injuries sustained in the earlier shooting. It put his age at 20.
It said he was injured while resisting arrest in connection with an investigation into an alleged plot to smuggle weapons and explosives into the country.
Muslim was shot in the head as he drove a car fleeing the scene, the ministry said. It said officers opened fire in self-defense because he tried to run them over after being warned off verbally and with warning shots. He was immediately taken to the hospital and a passenger in the car was arrested, according to the statement.
Muslim's family was notified of the incident and visited him in the hospital, according to the ministry.
Bahrain's majority Shiites began protesting in early 2011 to seek greater political rights from the government. More than 65 people have died in the unrest, but rights groups and others place the death toll higher.