Bahrain PM, world’s longest-serving, dies at 84

The country will hold a week of official mourning, during which flags will be flown at half-mast

Bahrain’s Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister who had held the post since Independence in 1971, died on Wednesday at the age of 84, the state media announced.

Prince Khalifa was a controversial figure during his five decades in office — and deeply unpopular with the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Shia population.

When Shia-led protesters occupied Manama’s Pearl Square for a month in 2011, before being driven out by Saudi-backed security forces, their main demand was for the prince to step down.

Controversial role

He played a key role in Bahrain’s political and economic affairs, including setting the stage for a referendum that put paid to the Shah of Iran’s claims to the tiny Gulf archipelago.

But the Prime Minister, who was accused by dissidents of opposing reforms and cracking down on activists, adopted a lower profile in recent years as his age advanced and as Crown Prince Salman played a more prominent role.

Prince Khalifa died at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in the United States, the official Bahrain News Agency said.

The burial will take place after his remains have been transported home, and in line with coronavirus restrictions only a limited number of relatives will attend.

The country will hold a week of official mourning, during which flags will be flown at half-mast. Government Ministries and departments will be closed for three days. Gulf leaders paid tribute, hailing the veteran leader’s long career “that has shaped Bahrain’s recent history”, according to Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

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