Crowd attacks U.S. sailors after accident

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

MANAMA, Bahrain -- A U.S. sailor and his Ethiopian bride remained hospitalized Monday after they were attacked by a crowd when their car hit a local woman outside a store.

The newlyweds were under observation at the military hospital on this tiny Persian Gulf island, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, Navy spokesman Lt. Chris Davis said. He would not identify the patients but said their conditions were "not life threatening."

However, a U.S. Embassy statement said the sailor's wife, who is three months pregnant, was seriously hurt.

Another sailor who was in the car with the couple was treated Monday at the Bahrain Defense Forces hospital and released, he said.

According to Davis, the three went to the Farshat Al-Areas store about nine miles southwest of Manama, the capital, seeking a refund of the $79.50 deposit the woman placed on a wedding dress.

The store refused to pay in full and a heated argument spilled into the street, attracting a crowd and causing a traffic jam, Davis said.

"They were trying to leave the area and struck a local woman in the process," Davis told The Associated Press. "They tried to check on her, and when they got down to help her the crowd took offense on them."

The crowd smashed the car windows and beat its occupants, he said.

Davis and the U.S. Embassy said only two U.S. sailors were involved in the incident.

However, Abdul Hadi Yousif, whose wife owns the shop, and other Bahrainis at the scene said more servicemen showed up as matters escalated. Yousif said at least seven U.S. personnel were involved.

He said his 26-year-old sister-in-law was hit by the car and suffered a fractured leg.

Yousif said the sailors began destroying the shop, punching his wife and her sister, who is three months pregnant. Two Indian tailors employed at the store tried to intervene and were beaten by the sailors, he said.

"It is the Americans who started the fight," Yousif said. "They owed us money and they wanted us to pay them. This is unbelievable."

Police intervened, and witnesses said the crowd of up to 500 chanted "Death to America!" and called for U.S. forces to leave the island kingdom. The crowd dispersed about five hours later.

Officials at Salmaniya Hospital, where witnesses said some shop employees were taken, refused to comment.

U.S. Navy and Bahraini authorities were investigating, the U.S. Embassy statement said. Davis said no charges had been filed yet.

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