KUWAIT CITY – An Interior Ministry official on Sunday confirmed a report that suspected militants captured in recent police raids confessed they had planned to use ice cream trucks packed with explosives to attack U.S. military convoys traveling to Iraq.
Members of a militant group told interrogators they wanted to park the ice cream and snack vans loaded with explosives next to highways and detonate them as U.S. military convoys traveling to and from Iraq passed, the Al-Watan daily reported on Friday. An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the report to The Associated Press but provided no further details.
On Sunday, most of the vans had disappeared from highways and police stepped up monitoring of the roads. The snack vans, which also sell ice, are common on highways at this time of year when many Kuwaitis drive into the desert to camp.
Some 40 terror suspects have been handed over to prosecutors since the beginning of Kuwait’s unprecedented crackdown on Muslim militants last month, said the official. Kuwaiti security forces fought four deadly shootouts with suspected militants last month.
Suspects in custody include two women Â— the wife of the ringleader who allegedly helped him prepare explosives and the wife of one of five suspects who surrendered to police in Sulaibiyah on Saturday.
One woman captured Saturday, who was identified as a “non-Kuwaiti,” was “hiding a machine gun under her abaya,” according to the official, referring to the black head-to-toe traditional cloak that some women in the country wear.
Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation. It was the only Arab country that openly supported the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Many Islamic militants oppose the 18,000 U.S. troops based in the country and about 2,000 other troops who drive or guard convoys traveling between Kuwait and Iraq. Since 2002, militant fundamentalists have killed one U.S. Marine and one civilian contractor.
The Interior Ministry official said many of the suspects were led by a militant preacher named Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, who was apprehended last month.
Two Saudis and three Jordanian suspected militants and one of their wives arrested Saturday were not tied to al-Enezi’s terror group, but were wanted for other investigations, the official said.
Interior Minister Sheik Nawwaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah told lawmakers in a closed meeting recently that al-Enezi’s group of 24 targeted Americans and Kuwait’s state security police. The militants Â— including Kuwaitis, Saudi Arabians, and Jordanians Â— were arrested or killed before they could carry out any attacks. Two are still being sought.