Protester killed in clashes ahead of Bahrain GP, opposition group claims

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Anti-government protesters in Bahrain said a man was found dead Saturday after a night of clashes with police ahead of Sunday's controversial Formula One grand prix.

Opposition party al Wefaq said the body of Salah Abbas Habib, who was in his 30s, was found on the roof of a building in the village of Shakhoura, near the capital Manama, Sky News reported.

Al Wefaq published an image of his body on top of the corrugated iron rooftop. The party, the main opposition group in the Shiite-majority but Sunni-ruled kingdom, claimed Habib was part of a group that was beaten by police during violence late Friday night.

The interior ministry confirmed police were investigating the discovery of a body in Shakhoura, though it made no comment on how the person died.

The government, meanwhile, deployed armored vehicles onto the streets of Manama in anticipation for more unrest Saturday as final practice and qualifying sessions took place at the Bahrain International Circuit, just 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

Around 50,000 activists gathered in Manama on Friday, and thousands more were expected to take to the streets Saturday.

The protesters began "three days of rage" Friday against the country's rulers, during which they called for the cancellation of the motorsport event, which was fought to be held in the kingdom state by Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa.

Molotov cocktails were hurled at security officials, and anti-grand prix graffiti was daubed on walls, before the protesters were dispersed with tear gas and pepper spray.

Despite months of political unrest and the regime's crackdown on demonstrators, F1 organizers refused to call off the event.

Khalifa said to do so would "empower extremists," adding, "For those of us who are trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities and get people working together."

His remarks at the Sakhir circuit came despite Force India pulling out of Friday's second practice to ensure the team could travel back to its hotel before darkness fell.

Four Force India team members were caught up in a confrontation between protesters and police Wednesday evening when a Molotov cocktail exploded near their car.

The Sauber team confirmed Friday that its mechanics drove through a similar incident the previous day. None of the 12 on board the unmarked bus were hurt.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone appeared unmoved by escalating safety concerns, saying he had no intention of calling off the race amid political unrest for a second consecutive year.