One billion euros from Bahrain for latest-generation US helicopters

Manama has signed an agreement with Bell Trident Textron Inc. for $ 912 million. Air Force Commander: "the latest and most advanced in the world" means "added value". On the internal front, repression continues: sentences of up to 10 years for six activists.

Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Bahrain has signed a $ 912 million deal with the American Bell Helicopter Textron Inc, for the purchase of 12 next-generation AH-1Z Viper helicopters. As the air force commander Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al-Khalifa points out, Manama "is the second nation in the world to use these [innovative] means after the United States".

Commenting on the sale, Al Khalifa explains that "these vehicles are the most recent and the most advanced in the world" and will constitute "an added value for Bahrain's air force" and its "potential in combat". The delivery of the first lot is expected by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, the repression of opponents and pro-human rights activists continues in the country. In recent days, a court sentenced six people to sentences up to 10 years in prison, because they were involved in the explosion of a homemade bomb in front of the central bank (Bchr) headquarters last year. They will also have to pay a fine of 500 thousand dinars (about $ 1.3 million).

In recent years, the authorities have arrested and condemned Shiite activists and religious leaders and suspended the activities of Al-Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition group. The accusation is of "terrorism, extremism and violence" as well as links with a foreign power (read Iran). The executioner has also been active: several young men were executed in front of a firing squad for (self-proclaimed) anti-government activities.

Bahrain is a Gulf monarchy governed by a Sunni dynasty in a country where the majority of the population (at least 60-70%) is Shiite and has long called for constitutional changes and social and economic rights. In 2011, in the wake of the Arab spring, there were riots that the king -allied to Washington and supported by Riyadh - quashed with troops sent from Saudi Arabia.