Bahrain says gunfire killed young protester

AP News

3/31/2012 10:03:50 AM - AP News

Bahraini security forces fired tear gas during clashes Saturday with protesters who gathered after authorities acknowledged that gunfire killed a young man during earlier anti-government demonstrations in the Gulf kingdom.

The country's Interior Ministry promised an investigation into Ahmed Ismail's fatal wound from a "live bullet" early Saturday, but the death is likely to escalate accusations that Bahrain's Western-backed leaders use excessive force to quell protests.

It also could boost pressure on Formula One organizers to call off the April 22 Bahrain Grand Prix. The race was canceled last year in a blow to the country's Sunni leadership, which is now desperate to show signs of stability nearly 14 months after the country's Shiite majority began a sustained uprising seeking a greater voice in the kingdom's affairs.

Street battles occur nearly every day with police often using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. But reports of live gunfire are rare.

Hours after the government acknowledgment that 22-year-old Ismail had been killed by live ammunition, hundreds of protesters gathered at the cemetery near his home outside the capital, Manama. Riot police fire tear gas and stun grenades to try to clear the crowds, touching off running street clashes. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

More than 45 people have died in Bahrain's unrest since February 2011.

Washington faces increasing pressure to try to curb the crackdowns, but U.S. officials are wary about souring relations with Bahrain's leadership and its key Saudi backers. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is one of the Pentagon's main counterweights against Iran's military in the Gulf.