Mourners bury Bahraini woman killed in unrest

AP News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 10:42 AM
Mourners bury Bahraini woman killed in unrest

Dozens of mourners gathered in Bahrain's capital Tuesday to bury a Shiite woman who witnesses say died at the hands of the country's military shortly after emergency rule was imposed last week.

The funeral was a reminder that emotions remain raw and tensions are still high between the Shiite majority, which make up the bulk of the opposition, and the kingdom's Sunni rulers and their allies.

Bahrain descended into turmoil last month as Shiite-led opposition groups took to the streets of the capital Manama to call for greater political reforms. The tiny island nation plays host to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, and its rulers maintain close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Western-backed Arab nations.

Bahia al-Aradi, 51, was driving on a main road in Manama looking for gasoline when she was shot in the head last Wednesday as she approached a military checkpoint, according to witnesses who came to her aid from nearby houses. They said they were also shot at by the military vehicles parked on a highway overpass.

The woman's brother, Habib al-Aradi, 36, said Bahia was on the phone with her younger sister when she was shot. He said the family was told they could pick up al-Aradi's body from the main civilian hospital, Salmaniya, only this week. However, a death certificate seen by an Associated Press reporter was issued by a military hospital. It listed the cause of death as severe brain injury.

"This is not the real reason why she died," Habib al-Aradi said. He said he wants the military to explain what happened to his sister. "We cannot trust this army anymore."

The military hasn't commented on al-Aradi's death.

Mourners at al-Aradi's funeral demanded revenge and chanted "Death to Al Khalifa" _ a reference to the country's ruling dynasty _ as they carried her body to Manama cemetery.

Human rights groups say at least 20 people have been killed, including two members of Bahrain's security forces, since protests began Feb. 14.

Separately, an organizer of a Kuwaiti medical convoy blocked from entering Bahrain said the team is ready to try again if it gets official clearance. Dr. Adnan Fadeq said the convoy returned to Kuwait on Monday after being told it could not cross from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

Fadeq said no reason was given for the denial of permission to the convoy, which included 53 medical personnel and 21 ambulances. Bahraini authorities have not commented.

A Saudi-led Gulf military force is in Bahrain aiding the monarchy in quelling the opposition protests.

The unrest has weighed on Bahrain's banking sector, one of the kingdom's main industries.

Credit agency Standard & Poor's on Monday cut its ratings on the Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank and Arab Banking Corp., and the Bahrain branch of Arab Bank. Although Bahrain-based, ABC is majority owned by the Libyan government. S&P said its ratings face pressure from unrest in both countries.

Separately, Bahraini regulators revoked operating licenses for a telecommunications company in which Sunni liberal leader Ibrahim Sharif is a large shareholder. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said all services of the company, 2Connect, will be permanently disconnected starting Sunday.

Sharif, who is listed in government records as a director of 2Connect, heads the opposition Waad Society, an umbrella group of protest factions. He was arrested last week during a roundup of political activists.

The CEO of 2Connect, Fahed al-Shirawi, said Sharif was an early investor who holds more than 10 percent of the company but is no longer a director.

Al-Shirawi said unspecified security concerns were given as reason for the planned shutdown. He said he doesn't understand it, but that company is willing to cooperate with authorities to resolve any concerns.

"If there's a security concern, we're the first people to want to know what it is and how to stop it," he said.

TRA officials couldn't be reached for comment.

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AP Business Writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.