A masked Bahraini anti-government protester carrying stones runs toward riot police firing tear gas, birdshot and rubber bullets during clashes after the politically charged funeral for a teenager in Muharraq, Bahrain, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Bahrain's main opposition group says the kingdom's paramilitary national guard is deploying to back up police as authorities try to quell rising political violence. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali) Image Credit: AP

Manama: Bahrain’s paramilitary National Guard have deployed into new areas around the violence-wracked Gulf nation in an apparent sign that authorities are stepping up efforts to quell political unrest.

Wider use of the Guard could signal a tougher strategy by Bahrain’s government as riot police struggle to contain the opposition uprising.

A government statement said the Guard — a force separate from the regular military — will be patrolling “strategic locations” that have been scenes of arson attacks and clashes.

Hadi Al Musawi, a spokesman for the main opposition group Al Wefaq, said Guard troops were seen setting up in Sitra, a centre of the revolt.

Previously, Guard forces have been used mainly at key sites in Manama, including the landmark square that was the centre of the protests in their first weeks.

Meanwhile, heavy clashes erupted on Saturday after the funeral of a teenager killed in a traffic incident during a clampdown on marchers the day before. Opposition groups claim the boy was hit by a car while fleeing security forces, but officials say the incident had no connection to the police action.

More than 55 people have died in unrest in Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.