Bahrain's prime minister has died, aged 84

Khalifa was the longest serving prime minister of any government worldwide.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa during his visit to Manama, Bahrain, August 26, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa during his visit to Manama, Bahrain, August 26, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bahrain's Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, the world's longest serving prime minister and a staunch ally of neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States, has died, the royal palace announced on Wednesday.
Sheik Khalifa, a dominant figure in the Gulf island's politics for much of his near half century in power, passed away on Wednesday morning at Mayo Clinic hospital in the United States, Bahrain's state news agency said.
Khalifa, 84, the uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, had served as prime minister since the Sunni Muslim-led island kingdom declared independence from Britain in 1971, almost half a century. The al-Khalifa family has ruled since 1783.
His stern response to pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011 -- and criticism of similar unrest across the Arab world -- underlined what for many was the defining characteristic of his career, namely a stalwart defense of dynastic rule.
In August, Sheikh Kahlifa left the kingdom for what official media called at the time "a private visit abroad."
Earlier this year he spent time in Germany for unspecified medical treatment, returning to Bahrain in March.
The burial ceremony will take place upon the repatriation of his body and the funeral will be limited to a specific number of relatives, Bahrain's state news agency said.
Official mourning has been declared for a week and government ministries and departments will close for three days starting Thursday.
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to Khalifa's passing on Wednesday, tweeting "Saddened by news this morning of the passing of Bahrain’s long-serving prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and offer my thoughts and sympathies to his family and to the people of Bahrain."
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences on Khalifa's passing as well.
"I would like to express on my behalf and on behalf of the citizens of Israel our sincere condolences to the King of Bahrain, His Majesty Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, to the royal family and to the entire Bahraini people on the death of Prime Minister Emir Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa. I send my personal condolences to his family as well," said Netanyahu. "I appreciate his great contribution to the establishment of peace between our countries."

Bahrain is the home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
 
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