High ranking officers in the Kuwaiti army have been arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist acts against American military and residential areas in the emirate. The news provides more evidence of growing radicalism in Kuwait, and of fallout from the conflict in Iraq. A report in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam claimed the group was planning to attack U.S. targets during the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast, due to fall on or around January 21. According to the report, the chief suspects (whittled down from an original 15) held the ranks of major, sergeant, and corporal, and had links with former servicemen who fought in Afghanistan and Chechnya. One of the suspect officers had earlier attempted to go to Iraq to fight Americans there, and the group was intending to transfer anti-American operations from Fallujah to Kuwait. Military intelligence and state security operatives in the emirate are at present conducting raids on locations associated with those suspected of lending support to the terror network (www.alraialaam.com).
Further details of the plot were provided by the political daily Al-Siyassah, which quoted unnamed sources that pointed to the suspects’ ‘ideological links’ with al-Qaeda. The U.S. embassy in Kuwait City said last month that it had credible information that terrorist groups were planning attacks in the region. An audiotape released on December 16 carried the voice of bin Laden calling on mujahideen to strike oil installations not only in Iraq but also in its Gulf state neighbors. The plans of U.S. army and residential locations in Kuwait seized from the suspects appeared to confirm this strategy (www.alseyassah.com).
Kuwait is now on a state of maximum security alert. Heavily-armed security units stand guard over almost every government building, energy installation and Western facility and almost the entire national guard and police have been mobilized, along with army units. But accompanying this massive security response is a vigorous campaign to downplay the threat. First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Nawaf al-Sabah, has denied media reports claiming that the security authorities had received indications that Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s group was expanding the scope of its armed operations to Kuwait. Similarly, the government has strenuously denied a report by TV satellite station Al-Arabiyya, that security forces had arrested two Islamist militants in the Hawalli district and uncovered a carload of hand grenades and weaponry after an exchange of gunfire on a state security building.
These incidents, plus the ongoing trial of some 22 members of a group accused of recruiting fighters for Iraq, are pointing to what appears to be an inexorable rise of anti-U.S. agitation in the emirate. They come after a year-long lull in attacks on U.S. citizens, carried out by anonymous gunmen and, in one case, by a Kuwaiti policeman, which have so far resulted in two fatalities.