Kuwait arrests 13 fugitives in Iran-linked terror case
Kuwaiti authorities arrested 13 members of the Hezbollah-affiliated Abdali cell who had been missing since July. The suspects were convicted, most in absentia, of weapons smuggling and spying for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement to carry out “hostile acts” in Kuwait.
Kuwait’s Interior Ministry announced the capture of 12 suspected members of the cell in different parts of the country. Security services arrested another person a day later and a search for two other individuals continued. A total of 25 Kuwaiti nationals and an Iranian had been charged in the case.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, on an official visit to Kuwait, pledged his country’s support in countering the Hezbollah cell.
“We clearly said that we condemn what happened regarding Abdali cell and that Lebanon is prepared to cooperate, with all its apparatus, to end this issue.” Hariri said in a statement after meeting with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah.
“There is a great Kuwaiti resentment towards it and they are right about it and we in Lebanon will cooperate on this issue,” Hariri said.
Hariri’s Future Movement party, earlier in August, slammed Hezbollah for its involvement in the Abdali case, warning that it could compromise relations with Kuwait and other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In 2016, Kuwait and other GCC members expelled a significant number of Lebanese nationals over alleged links to Hezbollah.
“We are here to express our condemnation of the findings of the three-year trial of the Abdali cell, which proved that some ‘Hezbollah’ members were part of it,” the Future Movement said in a statement after its delegation met with Kuwait’s ambassador to Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Interior Ministry vowed to cooperate with Kuwaiti officials. Iran-sponsored Hezbollah denied having any affiliation with the terror cell.
Kuwait logged an official complaint in July with the Lebanese government, asking it to “assume its responsibilities towards irresponsible practices by Hezbollah” and take measures to deter “heinous” practices by the Iran-sponsored group.
Following a meeting with Hariri, Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah said Kuwaiti officials requested Beirut keep them informed on measures taken to fend off those trying to undermine Kuwait’s security and stability.
The Abdali case has also been a sore point in Kuwaiti-Iranian relations, despite Kuwait’s traditional role as a regional mediator and peace broker. On July 20, Kuwaiti officials closed Iran’s cultural mission and military offices and requested the Iranian Embassy reduce its diplomatic mission from 19 representatives to four.
Tehran blamed the diplomatic spat on an “American-Zionist” conspiracy.
Iran reacted harshly to recent developments in the Abdali case, with the Iranian Embassy in Kuwait filing an official complaint against a local publication for stating it was connected to the Abdali terror cell.
The Abdali cell was uncovered in August 2015 during a major security campaign to crack down on sleeper networks nationwide. The campaign was initiated after a bombing attack on the Shia Imam as-Sadiq Mosque. Kuwaiti authorities found large quantities of weapons hidden on farmland linked to the group and in three other houses across the country, including 19 tonnes of ammunition, 14 kilograms of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, 204 grenades and electric detonators.
Kuwaiti investigators said the weapons were smuggled from Iran by sea. The cell’s ringleader was convicted of meeting with Iranian officials at their diplomatic mission in Kuwait, as well as with Iranian officials in Tehran, including IRGC representatives, to facilitate the smuggling of weapons.