- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

KUWAIT CITY (AP) Two Kuwaiti gunmen in a pickup truck fired on U.S. forces during war games yesterday on an uninhabited island in the Persian Gulf, killing one Marine and wounding another in what the Kuwaiti government called a "terrorist act."
The assailants were killed by American troops. The names of the Marine casualties were not immediately released.
The Pentagon said the assailants pulled up to a group of Marines conducting a live-fire exercise on Faylakah Island off Kuwait's coast and attacked with small-arms fire. They then drove to another site, stopped and opened fire again before being killed by Marines who returned fire, the Pentagon said.
Marines later found three AK-47s and ammunition inside the vehicle, according to a statement released in Washington by the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet. It said the injured Marine was hit in the arm.
In a brief statement, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry condemned the attack and identified the assailants as Anas Kandari, born in 1981, and Jassem Hajiri, born in 1976. It said both were Kuwaiti civilians.
An Interior Ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the two men as fundamentalist Muslims. More than 30 of their friends and relatives were detained for questioning.
"The ministry announces that this is a terrorist act," the Interior Ministry said in a statement. "It will not allow anyone to undermine the country's security."
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Florida, said the Marines left the island shortly after the attack. He didn't know whether the exercise would resume.
Faylakah Island, about 10 miles east of Kuwait City, was abandoned 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 Persian Gulf war, the government 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.
The shooting attack was unprecedented in Kuwait, a U.S. ally since the Gulf war. More than a decade later, most Kuwaitis remain supportive of the close relationship.
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said the two Marines were taken to the Armed Forces Hospital in Kuwait City, where one of them died of his wounds. Their names were withheld until relatives could be contacted.
Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, another Pentagon spokesman, said the Marines were involved in urban assault training when they came under small-arms fire.
The military exercise, dubbed Eager Mace 2002, involves Kuwaitis at some stages. However, Col. Lapan said the attack happened during an exercise that only involved U.S. forces.
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 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 potential war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Kuwait opposes any unilateral action against Iraq and fears retaliation with nonconventional 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.
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 in support of Israel.


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