Reuters on Tuesday, February 25, 2003
AL-ABRAQ, Kuwait (Reuters) – Kuwait’s interior minister accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Tuesday of backing “terrorist” acts in the Gulf state, which has witnessed a series of attacks on Americans.
Asked about Islamic militants in Kuwait, who have been blamed for the violence, Sheikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah told a news conference near the Iraqi border:
“The issue is not Kuwaitis being terrorists. The issue is the Iraqi regime. He (Saddam) is right now pushing for more terrorism or terrorist actions inside Kuwait.”
He give no details of how a link with Iraq had been established.
Kuwaiti officials have previously said Muslim militants who killed or wounded Americans were sympathizers with the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.
The accusation comes at a sensitive time.
Tens of thousands of U.S. troops are training in Kuwait for a possible war on Iraq while security forces are cracking down on Islamic militants violently opposed to the U.S. presence.
Kuwait said Monday its security forces had arrested three Kuwaitis for allegedly planning attacks on U.S. troops, the latest sign of rising anti-American sentiment.
“They were captured just in time. They were planning an attack on a convoy,” a Kuwaiti official told Reuters.
Heavily armed U.S. troops in jeeps and trucks often travel in large convoys along the desert highway leading to Iraq.
The three arrested were identified as Ahmad Mutlaq Nasser al-Mutairi, aged about 29; Abdullah Mutlaq Nasser al-Mutairi, about 32; and Mussaed Huran Shebib al-Anzi, about 28.
Their lawyer declined comment.
KUWAIT PLEDGES TO UPHOLD SECURITY
Sheikh Mohammad vowed to defeat terrorism.
“The police force struck very hard and we apprehended (the three) suspects, it will give us a big push toward stabilizing and for securing Kuwait’s internal security,” he said.
“The national security agency tightened security and started to apprehend all the terrorists and sleeper cells in Kuwait.”
A U.S. marine and an American civilian working for the military have been killed in a string of attacks on Americans in Kuwait, one of Washington’s staunchest Arab allies.
The attacks have rattled Kuwait, heavily dependent on Washington for protection since a U.S.-led coalition liberated the tiny country from Iraqi occupation in 1991.
The U.S. embassy, which has asked its citizens to consider leaving Kuwait, said it was concerned by the attacks allegedly planned by the detained men.
“We’ve had three armed attacks against Americans in Kuwait since October, and we know that there are individuals out there who wish us ill,” an embassy spokesman said.
The possibility of a war against Iraq has raised concerns that a military strike will fuel further anti-American anger and unleash new attacks on U.S. troops and civilians in Kuwait.
“A war against Iraq will mean more terrorist acts in the Gulf,” said Mohammad al-Mulaifi, an influential Islamic writer arrested in October for allegedly making inciting statements after two Kuwaitis killed a U.S. marine. He was later released.
“These militant ideas and holy war will keep spreading in the Gulf,” Mulaifi, whose newspaper commentaries are said by diplomats to reflect al-Qaeda’s thinking, told Reuters.