MANAMA (Reuters) - Several people were injured on Tuesday when demonstrators clashed with Bahraini security forces in the capital Manama during protests over the detention of a prominent opposition leader, eyewitnesses said.
Western-allied Bahrain has been dogged by political tensions since security forces quelled ‘Arab Spring’ protests in 2011. Bahrain’s majority Shi‘ite Muslims have demanded reforms and a bigger share in government in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.
The discontent has worsened since the arrest on Dec. 28 of Sheikh Ali Salman, a Shi‘ite Muslim cleric who heads the al-Wefaq Islamic Society, after he led a protest rally against last November’s elections, which were boycotted by the opposition.
The witnesses said protest marches by young men and women in Sheikh Salman’s district of the capital, al-Balad al-Qadeem, turned violent, with security forces firing bird-shot and tear gas at the demonstrators. Young men attacked security forces with iron rods and bricks.
One eyewitness said he saw a tear gas canister hit one demonstrator in the leg. He also saw other wounded people.
Al-Wefaq said “dozens of protesters were injured” by the security forces and posted a picture of one person with bird shot injuries. The group also emailed to journalists photos of at least five people with blood-stains on their bodies.
The Interior Ministry said it was checking the reports.
The public prosecutor accuses Sheikh Salman of several offences, including inciting people to overthrow the government.
The prosecutor remanded Sheikh Salman on Sunday for 15 days pending further investigation.
The U.S. State Department has criticized Salman’s detention, saying it could further stoke political tensions in Bahrain.
Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones