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 Wednesday at the age of 84, state media announced.
Prince Khalifa was a controversial figure during his five decades in office -- and deeply unpopular with the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Shiite population.
When Shiite-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 Khalifa to step down.
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 Salmanplayed 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.
Born on November 24, 1935, Prince Khalifa began to attend his father’s royal court at the age of seven along with his elder brother, Prince Issa.