- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

KUWAIT CITY Attacks on U.S. forces in Kuwait are being covered up and played down because of concerns that further disclosures will destabilize preparations for war against Iraq, Kuwaiti officials said.
Incidents have either gone unreported or been passed off as harmless recreational shooting by hunters, a senior Kuwaiti government official said.
"The Americans have told us to downplay these incidents for fear of creating the sort of climate in which further attacks can happen," the official said.
One U.S. Marine has been killed and five seriously injured in terrorist attacks over the past two months. Although no more injuries have been reported, there have been a number of "close shaves" as U.S. military presence continues to provoke hostility among some Kuwaitis.
The country's leadership and most of its population remain resolutely pro-American and grateful for the U.S. role in liberating them from Iraqi occupation in 1991.
However, Islamic militancy has taken root in the country, and there is growing anti-American sentiment and support for groups such as al Qaeda among some youths.
The request to play down the terrorist threat comes at a sensitive time in U.S. preparations for war. Troop numbers have recently increased from 10,000 to about 15,000, and several new camps have been built in readiness for the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.
"These attacks and the threat of further attacks are making a difficult environment to operate in. But we are working with the Kuwaitis to keep everything under control," a U.S. military official said.
As part of a widespread government clampdown on extremists, there have been more than 70 recent arrests, in addition to several sedition trials in which Kuwaitis have been accused of advocating attacks against American interests.
The U.S. Embassy recently advised its citizens not to visit shopping districts for fear of creating a target for extremists.
"The majority of Kuwaitis fully back what the Americans are doing. All this trouble is being caused by a very small, extremist fringe," a Western diplomat said.

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