Prince Faisal, the sixth son of Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, died instantly after he lost control of the car he was driving and collided with a traffic light and billboard, said an official in the Ministry of Youth on Thursday.

A senior information ministry official confirmed the death. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release the news to the press.

State radio and television did not promptly announce the death, but they stopped their regular programmes and played readings from the Islamic holy book, the Quran - a sign of mourning.

Later, the radio and television said: "With all sorrow and sadness, the Royal Court announces the death of ... his highness Shaikh Faisal."

The statement gave no details of his death, saying only he died in "an unfortunate accident".

After the statement, the radio and television resumed readings from the Quran.

It was not known how the prince came to be driving on a public road. Under Bahraini law, one has to be 18 years of age to apply for a driving licence.