City view of Bahrain's capital Manama. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: A young Bahraini prisoner died of wounds he suffered during a police operation to detain him on charges of weapons smuggling, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

However, the Gulf kingdom’s main Shiite political opposition group said the man died on Saturday as a result of torture during his detention.

A ministry statement said Fadel Abbas Musalem, 20, had been taken to hospital after being “wounded in the head” on January 8 when police tried to arrest him in a village near the capital Manama.

It added that police acted in “legitimate defence” when they fired on a car carrying Mussalem and another man when it kept driving towards security forces despite warning shots.

The other man was also arrested.

Musallem was part of a group suspected of “involvement in smuggling weapons and explosives and in terrorist acts”, the ministry added.

Bahrain’s state prosecutor said on Sunday the group had received training abroad to carry out “terrorist acts”, saying several members had been arrested with “weapons and explosives”.

But the main Shiite opposition group Al Wefaq said Musallem had been tortured “savagely”.

It said that Abbas’ family had been prevented from visiting him in hospital — a report the government denied.

Wefaq distributed photographs of his body appearing to show a large injury on the back of his head.

It said in a statement that besides a wound to his head, his body had signs of “bruises on his back, around the neck and on his face”.

His lip had also been cut and he had a “deep wound to the right shoulder”, Al Wefaq said.

Thousands of people attended his funeral on Sunday in Daraz, a village near Manama, chanting anti-government slogans, witnesses said.

Security forces later intervened when “saboteurs threw Molotov cocktails at them and closed a main road”, the interior ministry said on Twitter.

Last week, Bahrain’s crown prince restarted stalled talks with the opposition by meeting Wefaq’s leader Shaikh Ali Salman.

He also appointed a delegate from the ruling family to attend the dialogue, and agreed on a list of topics for discussion.

The last round of reconciliation talks was suspended last year with the government accusing Wefaq of secretly backing violent attacks on police, and the opposition accusing the authorities of cracking down on its members.

A month-long protest that erupted on February 14, 2011 challenged the government. The demonstrations were dispersed in mid-March in a deadly crackdown helped by security forces from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

At least 89 people have been killed in Bahrain since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

Demonstrators frequently clash with security forces in villages outside the capital.

Bomb attacks have included one that targeted a Sunni mosque close to the royal court last July. It caused no casualties.