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Miscast Characters Accused of Plot to Kill George Bush : Kuwait: Iraq's alleged infiltrators--a ragtag crew including a smuggler and nurse--face sentencing today.

October 30, 1993|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ghazali said he never intended to go through with the mission. "When we entered Kuwaiti territory," he told the judges, "I prayed that God would make something happen to stop the operation, and I intended to inform the authorities at the first chance I got."

As for Ghazali's partner, Assadi clearly could not have been more different. He denied, under oath, any knowledge of the plot on Bush's life.

Throughout the trial, the 33-year-old cafe owner was confident, almost brazen, and given to sarcastic smiles that contrasted with Ghazali's tears.

"I'm a smuggler--smugglers have weapons," was a typical Assadi retort when prosecutors asked him to explain why he crossed into Kuwait on April 13--the day Bush arrived for a three-day state visit--with two Belgian-made, 9-millimeter pistols, an AK-47 assault rifle, two antitank mines and more than half a dozen cubes of plastic explosives.

As Assadi described his mission, he too said he had been recruited by the Mukhabarat.

A fellow smuggler, whom he knew doubled as an intelligence agent, had come into his cafe, offering the equivalent of $180 in cash and five cases of whiskey if Assadi agreed to drive Ghazali and the cache of explosives across the border.

But Assadi repeatedly testified he knew nothing of Ghazali's orders to kill Bush. His mission: to blow up car showrooms and shopping centers in Kuwait city.

In an effort to prove he never intended to carry out the mission, Assadi described how he buried the explosives in the desert as soon as he crossed into Kuwait and later abandoned the booby-trapped Toyota in a sheep pen--facts confirmed by Shatti's testimony.

It was only after Assadi and Ghazali parked their sabotaged Land Cruiser in the sheep pen that, Shatti indicated, an informant tipped off the police, who surrounded the site. But when the two men learned of the huge police presence, they decided to make their way back toward the Iraqi border.

It was an exit consistent with the rest of the plan's execution: The two men stole a Mercedes-Benz from a nearby street. It broke down within a few miles.

They headed off on foot. It was only when a group of Kuwaitis hunting birds in the desert spotted the two men in the 110-degree heat that police arrested them and, Shatti later testified, pieced together the plot.

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