- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2003

KUWAIT CITY, March 29 (UPI) — Kuwaiti border troops have arrested 11 Iraqi 'fedayeen' infiltrators, on a mission to carry out a bombing campaign in Kuwait, as they tried to slip across the frontier, Kuwaiti officials have told reporters.

The 11 fedayeen were arrested in two separate operations on Thursday and Friday near the remote border crossing of Bahar Houshan and have since been under interrogation by Kuwaiti security police.

Kuwaiti sources also say they are on "full alert" for further Iraqi infiltration missions, including one supposedly with seven Iraqis heading for Kuwait via another Gulf state.

News of the infiltration missions came as Kuwait was rocked in the early hours of Saturday morning when a missile exploded outside an exclusive seafront shopping mall. Two people were slightly injured in the blast, which reminded Kuwaitis that they were still in the front lines of the war,

"We have become the targets of Saddam's regime although we have never fired a single bullet at Iraq from our territory," commented Dr. Yacoub al-Sharrah, a retired government official.

But as the heavy equipment of the U.S. 4th Division began to unload at Kuwait's port Saturday, security officials in this essential logistics base for the coalition forces were bracing for Iraq's new guerilla tactics to start operations against their small, oil-rich emirate.

Although there are no blackouts in Kuwait City at night and the shopping malls are full, there are constant police checkpoints on the roads and heightened security at public buildings.

Twelve Iraqi missiles have been fired at Kuwait since the war began, and air raid sirens send people scurrying to their shelters daily. The New York Times raised the possibility Saturday the 13th missile was an American Tomahawk gone astray. But the Iraqi infiltration missions threaten a wholly different kind of war coming to Kuwait, more like the Palestinian Intifada.

Security experts in Kuwait say that Iraq has run intelligence operations in their country since long before the first Gulf war of 1990-91 and it has never been easy to close them down. Many Iraqis, who speak the same language and in many cases have close family links across the border, can pass unnoticed in Kuwait. And with U.S. and British air and military bases in Kuwait, the country is a prime intelligence opportunity for Baghdad.

So far, however, Kuwait has been an intelligence objective rather than a target for hostile covert operations, which makes the arrest of the infiltrators so alarming for the emirate. But there is no sign that the new threats to Kuwait, nor the constant attacks on Kuwait's support for the war against Iraq coming from the Arab media, will change the government's policy.

"We have interests as Kuwaitis that the Iraqi regime leader is ousted," Kuwait defense minister Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah, speaking to reporters on an inspection tour of Kuwaiti naval forces Saturday. "We denounce the methods used by some media outlets and politicians against the stance of Kuwait towards the war in Iraq."

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has called in the preachers at the country's mosques to advise them "to enlighten the faithful through sermons about the dangers of falling prey to rumors that threaten the security and stability of the country," according to Kuwaiti press reports.

Kuwait is a country of almost 2 million people, but fewer than half of them are Kuwaitis of Arab descent, and a majority of the workforce is composed of immigrants from Palestine, Egypt, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Oil wealth provides a highly prosperous per capita income of over $20,000 a year, and it is one of most democratic of all Arab states. Kuwait has a parliament with a genuine popular mandate, a division of powers, a relatively free speech and press and a written constitution.

But with Shi'ite Muslims (like those of Iran and southern Iraq) furnishing almost half the population, and Sunni Muslims providing another third, and many tribal and family links across the border, Kuwait remains uncomfortably locked into the political fate of neighboring Iraq.

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