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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Kuwait denies al-Qaeda link
Two US ship on Operation Eager Mace 2002
The joint training exercise continues off Kuwait
The Kuwaiti interior minister has said that there is no clear evidence linking the killers of a United States marine to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

On Tuesday, one US marine was killed and another wounded while on exercises on Failaka Island off Kuwait in an attack by two gunmen. Both attackers were killed.

"We have no information the attack was ordered from the outside," Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammed Khaled al-Sabah said on Saturday.

Kuwaiti national Jassem al-Hajeri
Jassem al-Hajeri was one of the two Kuwaitis killed
The minister said that 15 people had been arrested and confessed to involvement in the shooting, and they were planning to attack five other US and foreign targets.

Earlier reports had said the men arrested had confessed to being followers of Osama Bin Laden.

Khaled al-Adwa, an Islamist MP who attended a private meeting with the interior minister, said Sheikh Mohammed had told him and other MPs that suspects rounded up after the shooting told the authorities that they "consider Osama Bin Laden their leader".

US suspicions

US officials have already said that they suspect the two gunmen had links to al-Qaeda and received training in Afghanistan.

They also believe that the attacks were most likely to have been planned in Kuwait.

A further incident was reported on Wednesday, when US military personnel fired on a civilian vehicle north of the US base at Camp Doha in Kuwait, after apparently coming under threat from it.

The car was forced off the road, but the American vehicle did not stop.

Joint exercise

In his view, the most likely explanation is that the gunmen were two individuals who felt so angered by US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians that they decided to strike a blow for their beliefs.

The Eager Mace exercise, a joint project between the US and Kuwait, began on 24 September amid reports that US forces were preparing for possible military action against Iraq.

There are already close to 10,000 fully equipped US troops in the country - as many as 1,000 of whom are taking part in the Eager Mace exercises.

Kuwait is the strongest regional supporter of US plans to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but many Kuwaitis are nervous about a possible attack.

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Saad El-Inezi, Al-Jazeera Television
"They claim to have captured all the members of this cell"

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11 Oct 02 | Middle East
09 Oct 02 | Middle East
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26 Sep 02 | Middle East
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