UMM AL-HAIMAN, Kuwait – Police and militants fought a gun battle in a small Kuwaiti town near a U.S. military logistics center Saturday, leaving one Saudi gunman dead and two policemen wounded, the Interior Ministry said.
The shootout was the second in this oil-rich state in less than a week and follows a spate of similar incidents in neighboring Saudi Arabia involving Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the U.S.-allied Saudi regime.
Police captured at least three Kuwaiti gunmen in the operation, while the U.S. Embassy said in a statement that the clash also killed one policeman and wounded another. Kuwaiti officials reported only that two policemen were wounded.
The shootout began Saturday afternoon in Umm al-Haiman, a sparsely populated residential area on Kuwait City’s outskirts. A U.S. military logistics center is in the neighboring town of Arifjan, but the base was not believed to have been the target of the gunmen described by Kuwaiti officials as “terrorists.”
Helicopters hovered over Umm al-Haiman as police stormed homes and searched a mosque in search of militants.
Interior Minister Sheik Nawwaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah told reporters that a Saudi militant was killed in the attack and three Kuwaitis were captured during a police hunt.
Kuwait TV broadcast footage showing the body of a slain man outside a home and an unfurnished room that militants apparently had used to plan attacks. The camera zoomed in on black canisters, explosive fuses, notebooks with handwritten bomb-making instructions and police opening ammunition boxes.
The television then urged Kuwaitis to call several telephone numbers if they noticed any “suspicious activity” and quoted the Interior Ministry as warning against “harboring any wanted terrorists.”
A U.S. Embassy message warned the estimated 13,000 U.S. civilians in Kuwait to stay away from Umm al-Haiman and Arifjan and to report “any suspicious activity to police.”
On Monday, two police officers and a suspected Islamic militant were killed when policemen stormed a car-rental shop to arrest the suspect. Another two police were injured.
Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since the 1991 Gulf War (news – web sites) that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation under toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news – web sites).
But some Kuwaiti fundamentalists, who oppose the American military presence in their country, have attacked U.S. forces and American contractors working for them since late 2002, leaving one Marine and one American civilian dead.