Kuwait Qaeda-linked cell plotted to attack US base

Filed on February 1, 2010

KUWAIT CITY - Six Kuwaiti citizens with alleged links to Al-Qaeda had plotted to attack a major US military base in the Gulf emirate, a Kuwaiti secret service officer told a criminal court on Monday.

The officer’s remarks appeared to contradict the view of the public prosecutor who, when the trial opened in December, withdrew the key conspiracy charge against the six Kuwaitis.

The officer, who identified himself as Abdel Aziz Salem, said during Monday’s hearing that the investigation he carried out shows the suspects also planned similar attacks on US military targets in Bahrain.

He said they were in contact with some people in the Gulf state and that he received information about the plot from “secret sources in Kuwait and also from Bahrain” which led to the arrest in August of five of the suspects.

The sixth suspect is already serving a life term in jail for an attack in 2002 on the US military in Kuwait that left one American soldier dead.

The six men have categorically denied the charges, claiming that their confessions were extracted under torture by the emirate’s secret service.

Judge Hisham Abdullah produced forensic reports stating that four of the six suspects have injuries on various parts of their bodies but the officer said he was unaware of how the men sustained those injuries.

In the first hearing in December, the public prosecutor withdrew the key charge of the plot to attack the US military base at Arifjan, 70 kilometres (44 miles), south of Kuwait City.

The officer, however, insisted on Monday that the six men had planned to sneak into the huge base, which is home to thousands of US troops, and detonate there a truck full of explosives.

The next hearing has been scheduled for February 15.

In August the interior ministry said that the men were suspected of being members of an Al-Qaeda cell that was preparing to attack Camp Arifjan and other key installations.

The men are also charged of planning to manufacture explosives, the illegally possession of weapons and of hiding long-time Al-Qaeda suspect Mohsen al-Fadhli, who is being tried in absentia.

Fadhli has been on the run since January 2005. An eighth suspect, Mohammad al-Dossari, is also being tried in absentia in the case and is also on trial in Lebanon over terror charges.

A US defence department spokesman said last year that US forces in Kuwait had been targeted for attack but added that it was unclear if the suspects were linked to Al-Qaeda or planned to strike Camp Arifjan.

About 15,000 US soldiers are stationed in Kuwait, an oil-rich emirate which is also used as a transit point for thousands of US soldiers going to and from neighbouring Iraq.

Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

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