- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

KUWAIT CITY Kuwaiti police searched yesterday for four persons who fired guns near U.S. troops in the latest shooting involving American forces. But a U.S. diplomat played down the incident, suggesting the shots may have come from sport shooters.
Nobody was injured in the incident Friday, which occurred as Americans trained in the desert south of Kuwait City, officials said.
The U.S. military said the shots came from two white pickup trucks, each carrying two persons. It was not known what kind of weapons were used.
Early reports indicated that four persons were arrested, but U.S. authorities withdrew that account without explanation.
Efforts to contact Kuwaiti police spokesmen were unsuccessful. However, an American diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the shooting as a "recreational incident" involving young Kuwaitis firing weapons in the desert near Oraifijan, 35 miles south of Kuwait City.
Concern about the safety of U.S. troops here rose after the fatal shooting of a U.S. Marine and the wounding of another during an attack by Islamic extremists Oct. 8 on Failaka Island. The two assailants were killed by other Marines.
Six days later, shots were fired near U.S. troops in the northwest desert. Kuwaiti officials said privately that they probably came from Bedouin hunters who were not trying to harm Americans.
Yesterday, the Kuwaiti government sealed off nearly a quarter of the country, including the area near the Iraqi border, saying the move was to safeguard civilians during military exercises in the country's northwestern desert.
But Kuwaiti officials say privately that the closure is also designed to protect U.S. troops. The shooting Friday, however, took place outside the closed area.
Attacks on U.S. military personnel have shocked Kuwaitis, who depend on Washington for protection from Iraq, which invaded the country in 1990. A U.S.-led coalition drove out the Iraqis the following year.
Kuwait signed a defense pact with Washington after the Iraqis were defeated.
Many Kuwaiti fundamentalist leaders have said the young people who attacked U.S. troops were "misguided," and the number of militant extremists here is believed to be small.
About 10,000 American forces are in Kuwait for routine desert training or maintaining equipment positioned to defend the country. U.S. fighter jets use two Kuwaiti air bases to patrol a no-fly zone in southern Iraq.

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