Last updated: 19 October, 2012

Bahraini policeman hurt in clashes died

A Bahraini policeman hurt in a roadside bombing during clashes with demonstrators overnight has died from his injuries, the interior ministry said on Friday.

And thousands of Shiites took to the street on Friday to demanding a “real democratic transformation” in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, 19 months after security forces quelled a month-long protest calling for change.

“Two policemen were wounded in an explosion of an home-made bomb” in Akar, a Shiite-populated village near the capital Manama, and “one of them died” as a result of the wounds he suffered, the ministry said on Twitter.

Police clashed with demonstrators who took to the streets of Shiite villages late on Thursday, answering a call by the February 14 Youth Coalition, an Internet-based group that wants to topple the Sunni Al-Khalifa monarchy.

Brandishing the red and white flag of the kingdom, demonstrators marched until the early hours of Friday, chanting anti-regime slogans, including: “The people want to topple the regime” and “Down Hamad,” the king of the Gulf state.

Police fired tear gas and shotguns at the protesters, wounding an unspecified number of them, witnesses said.

The interior ministry said on Thursday that police also intervened after “saboteurs burned tyres and hurled petrol bombs and rocks” to block a main street in the Shiite village of Buri.

It said that the attacks “set a car ablaze and damaged another.”

The main Shiite opposition formation, Al-Wefaq condemned the attack on police as well as the “collective punishment” to people in the surrounding area that followed.

Al-Wefaq “condemns targeting police in Akar, as well as the collective punishment that followed… This is consistent with Al-Wefaq’s firm stance which calls for peaceful action and renounces violence, no matter who commits it.”

Bahrain’s mainstream opposition has repeatedly called for a constitutional monarchy, with a prime minister from the elected chamber to replace Prince Khalifa — the king’s uncle who has been in office since 1971.

But smaller radical groups have voiced calls for a drastic change to a republican system.

On Friday, thousands of protesters took part in the “People’s Freedom” demonstration called for by Al-Wefaq and other groups, marching on a main road near the village of Bilad, outside Manama.

Shiite cleric Ali Salman, who heads Al-Wefaq, and other leading figures of the opposition, participated in the protest.

Demonstrators chanted slogans like “Khalifa! Step down,” and “our revolution is peaceful.”

“What started on February 14 last year is a movement that will not stop without a real democratic transformation that ends the era of tyranny,” the opposition said in a statement following the demonstration.

Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet and strategically situated across the Gulf from Iran, has continued to witness sporadic demonstrations, mostly outside Manama, since last year.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, a total of 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on February 14, 2011.