KUWAIT CITY – Kuwaiti police stormed several suspected terror hideouts on Monday, arresting a reputed terror leader and sparking a gunbattle that killed five people, including four of his followers, authorities said. The fighting was the latest in a series of clashes between security forces and Islamic militants here.
Three terror suspects and three police officers were also wounded in the fighting, in Mubarak Al Kabir, south of Kuwait City, officials said.
Three other terror suspects surrendered during the raid, including Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, a wanted militant leader, authorities said. Al-Enezi is a former mosque preacher described as a mentor to many young militants here.
Kuwait, a major ally of the United States, has been battling Islamic fundamentalists who oppose the presence of U.S. forces in their country.
The shootout Monday was the fourth this month between security forces and suspected terrorists. Clashes on Jan. 10 and Jan. 15 left two suspects and two police officers dead. On Sunday, security forces fought with militants in a residential district of Kuwait City in a clash that killed three people — a terrorist suspect, a police officer, and a Bahraini bystander.
Authorities have arrested more than 25 Kuwaiti and Saudi suspects since the Jan. 10 clashes. Seven detainees, including a woman, have been referred to prosecutors on suspicions of planning terrorist attacks or failing to report such plans to the police.
The latest operation began early Monday morning when police raided several buildings in Mubarak Al Kabir and the suspected militants fired on them, according to an Interior Ministry statement. The suspects fled to a house in the al-Qurain neighborhood, which police then stormed.
The ensuing battle killed four of the terror suspects, and a civilian, the statement said.
Television footage taken later showed the building with its windows shattered and its walls pocked with bullet holes. Bodies lay face down on the roof of the house. A bearded man lay on his back, shivering with his hands tied.
The raid was “a spectacular success,” Lt. Col. Adel al-Hashshash of the Interior Ministry told Kuwait TV.
Last week, the U.S. and British embassies warned their citizens to be vigilant as further militant attacks were possible.
Kuwait has had close ties with Washington since 1991, when a U.S.-led coalition liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation. The country was the launch pad for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq (news – web sites) that toppled the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) and it remains a logistics base for U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
Since 2002, fundamentalists have carried out several attacks against Americans in Kuwait, killing one U.S. Marine and a civilian contracted to the U.S. military.