First Published: 2005-01-11

Kuwait hunts for suspected Al-Qaeda militants

Interior minister orders crackdown on militants after deadly gunfight with security forces in Kuwait City.


Middle East Online

By Omar Hasan - KUWAIT CITY

The militants are said to be Kuwaiti nationals

Kuwait was hunting Tuesday for up to three suspected Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants after a deadly gunfight with security forces that triggered a new US terror warning.

The emirate has also ordered a crackdown on militants after two Kuwaiti security officers and a suspect were killed in the shootout Monday when security forces moved in on a Kuwait City suburb to make an arrest.

"Security forces are looking for two to three suspects" who fled after the gunfight, a security official said.

"They are known to us and we will find them soon. They are suspected of being linked to Al-Qaeda terror network."

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia is also battling Al-Qaeda-linked militants behind a wave of violence since May 2003 that has left more than 100 people dead.

The US embassy in Kuwait, a key US ally in the region, issued a new warning to Americans Tuesday that armed "terrorists" were at large in the emirate and that US citizens should exercise caution.

"At least one suspected terrorist, known to be armed and dangerous, remains at large. The two terrorists involved in the shooting may have been part of a larger group," said a message from the embassy, the second alert in as many days.

The mission had warned its citizens Monday that assailants were driving around Kuwait planning to "randomly attack Westerners."

After the shootout, Kuwaiti Interior Minister Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah Monday night held an emergency meeting with his top security aides and ordered a crackdown on militants.

He said the dead suspect and those who fled were Kuwaiti nationals.

The minister however refused to link the militants with Al-Qaeda, preferring to wait until investigations were completed.

The gunfight erupted when intelligence men from the emirate's secret service, which deals with political and security matters, came to arrest the suspect, Fawaz Talaiq al-Oteibi.

Oteibi fired at police and fled to where a number of suspected militants were waiting in a car. The militants shot and killed two intelligence men and wounded two others. Oteibi later died in hospital.

US forces and civilians in Kuwait have been the target of a number of attacks, two of them fatal.

Around 25,000 US soldiers are stationed in Kuwait, which is used as a transit point for US and other coalition troops headed for Iraq.

Some 12,000 American civilians also live in Kuwait alongside around 9,000 Europeans and some 1,000 Australians.


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