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Marine Recovering From Kuwait Attack

October 9, 2002

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KUWAIT (AP) _ A U.S. Marine who survived what Kuwait called a ``terrorist act″ was recovering Wednesday as investigators tried to determine how two attackers infiltrated military exercises off the emirate’s coast.

Another unidentified Marine and the two assailants were killed in the gunfight that erupted Tuesday during urban assault training for U.S. Marines on Failaka, an uninhabited about 10 miles east of Kuwait City in the Gulf.

The injured Marine ``was recovering from non-life threatening injuries,″ Lt. Garrett Kasper, spokesman for the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, said Wednesday.

Kasper would not provide the Marine’s name or details about his wounds. Earlier, the Fifth Fleet had said the Marine was hit in the arm.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that the two assailants pulled up in a pickup truck to a group of Marines and opened fire with small arms. They then drove to another site and attacked again before being killed by Marines, the Pentagon said.

Marines later found three AK-47s and ammunition inside the truck, according to a statement released in Washington by the Fifth Fleet.

In a brief statement, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry condemned the attack and identified the assailants as Anas al-Kandari, born in 1981, and Jassem al-Hajiri, born in 1976. It said both were Kuwaiti civilians.

U.S. intelligence has not determined if the attackers had any terrorist links, said an intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

A Kuwaiti Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the two men as fundamentalist Muslims. More than 30 of their friends and relatives were detained for questioning, he said.

``The ministry announces that this is a terrorist act,″ the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry said in a statement. ``It will not allow anyone to undermine the country’s security.″

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement on its Web site Tuesday reminding Americans in Kuwait to remain vigilant.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Daniel Hetlage said the Marines returned to their ships shortly after the attack, but later would resume exercises on the island.

Failaka Island was abandoned by its inhabitants when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, and Iraqi forces heavily mined it during their occupation.

After a U.S.-led coalition liberated Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwait compensated islanders for their property and resettled them on the mainland. The island has since been cleared of mines and many Kuwaitis fish there on weekends. Some former residents visit occasionally.

Kuwait has been a Washington ally since the Gulf War. More than a decade later, most Kuwaitis remain supportive of the close relationship.

Marines were participating in a military exercise, dubbed Eager Mace 2002, that involves Kuwaitis at some stages. However, the Pentagon said Tuesday’s attack happened during an exercise for U.S. forces alone.

The war games started Oct. 1, after the amphibious transport ships USS Denver and USS Mount Vernon arrived in Kuwaiti waters and began unloading 1,000 Marines and their equipment. The men and women are from the 11th Marine Expeditionary unit based in Camp Pendleton, Calif. The vessels’ 900 sailors were also taking part in the maneuvers.

The U.S. military has carried out exercises in Kuwait since the Gulf War as part of a defense agreement the small oil-rich state signed with Washington. The Pentagon has said the current war games were routine and not related to any possible war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Kuwait opposes any unilateral action against Iraq and fears retaliation with non-conventional weapons if the United States attacks Baghdad. However, it has said the United States could use its land for an attack if the war is sanctioned by the United Nations.

The U.S. Army prepositions weapons at Camp Doha, located along the Gulf coast about 10 miles west of Kuwait City. The U.S. Air Force uses two Kuwaiti bases to patrol the southern no-fly zone over Iraq, which was set up after the Gulf War to protect Iraqi Shiites who rose up against Saddam.

Muslim fundamentalists are politically strong in Kuwait. They want Saddam removed from power, but many believe President Bush’s real motives for waging war would be to revive the foundering U.S. economy and to weaken Arabs out of support for Israel.

Two years ago, Kuwaiti authorities arrested three Kuwaitis they said plotted attacks on Camp Doha, an army base used by U.S. forces in Kuwait, and on the homes and cars of Western military personnel.

A Kuwaiti Islamic fundamentalist leader, Abdul-Razzak al-Shayeji, said authorities should deal with Tuesday’s shooting as an isolated incident.

``There are few jihad fighters (holy warriors) in Kuwait. The Islamic movement here is moderate,″ he said.

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Editors: AP correspondent Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report from Washington.

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