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Kuwait Detains 6 More in Deadly Ambush

Some were directly involved in planning killing of U.S. military contractor, official says.

January 26, 2003|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwaiti authorities said Saturday that they had detained at least six more men in connection with an ambush shooting Tuesday that left one American defense contractor dead and another wounded near the U.S. military compound here.

The names of the detained men, all believed to be Kuwaiti citizens, were not released, and it was not clear late Saturday whether they had all been arrested or whether some were being held for questioning.

But a Kuwaiti security official said that at least some of the men were directly involved in the planning of the shooting and were plotting other terrorist activities directed at Americans in Kuwait, where about 8,000 U.S. civilians and a growing contingent of American troops are massing for a potential attack on neighboring Iraq.

One of the men detained, authorities said, appeared to have given the weapon used in the ambush to Sami Mohammed Marzouq Obeid Mutairi, a 25-year-old civil servant who was arrested last week and charged with being the triggerman.

Mutairi reportedly described himself as an Al Qaeda sympathizer and told investigators that he had committed the crime as a "gift for Osama bin Laden." He was detained Wednesday as he tried to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The tensions felt by Americans here were exacerbated Saturday morning by a report that shots had just been fired at or near a U.S. military convoy traveling at the edge of the city. Military officials reported that someone had described the sound of gunfire nearby, but there were no reports of injuries or arrests.

Late in the afternoon, a spokesman at Camp Doha, the principal U.S. military base here, said details remained murky. He did not rule out the possibility that the sound could have been that of a car or truck backfiring.

Kuwait is officially a staunch U.S. ally. Many people here approach Americans to thank them for the role the U.S. played in pushing out Iraqi forces after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But there are pockets of considerable anti-American sentiment, fueled by a perception that the U.S. is hostile to Arab interests and to Islam, and there have been at least four incidents here in recent months, two of them deadly, involving gunfire directed at Americans.

Also Saturday, the head of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Tommy Franks -- who would be the tactical leader for any military action against Iraq -- met here with Kuwaiti defense officials and Interior Minister Sheik Mohammed Khaled al Hamad al Sabah.

Mutairi, the accused gunman, accompanied investigators to the crime scene Friday and boasted that he had killed Michael Rene Pouliot, 46, a software contractor with a San Diego company, as a present for Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, the Arab Times, a Kuwait-based newspaper, reported Saturday. The hail of bullets from a Kalashnikov rifle wounded Pouliot's co-worker, David Caraway, 38.

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