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Kuwaiti Cop Arrested In GI Shooting

2002/11/22 Larry Thomas, US soldier, in hospital bed after being injured in shooting, Kuwait.
AP
Saudi Arabian authorities Friday arrested a Kuwaiti police officer accused of shooting and seriously injuring two American soldiers, a Kuwaiti official said.

The police officer, Khaled al-Shimmiri, was arrested Friday morning, the Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity. He said that al-Shimmiri, who fled to Saudi Arabia after Thursday's shooting, was expected to be sent back to Kuwait later Friday.

He also said that al-Shimmiri was a patient at a Kuwait psychiatric hospital. He gave no further details.

The shooting happened along a stretch of desert highway as the soldiers, in civilian clothes, traveled in an unmarked car from the U.S. base at Camp Doha toward a garrison near Oraifijan, about 35 miles south of Kuwait City.

The patrol officer apparently flagged the Americans' car down, possibly for speeding, before the shooting, a Kuwaiti official said. But other reports indicated the attacker fired from his car as the Americans passed.

"One of the soldiers was shot in the face, and the other in the shoulder," Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Frank Merriman told CBS Radio News. "Neither injury is considered life-threatening."

The attack was the latest in a series of incidents involving U.S. troops in this oil-rich nation which borders Iraq. On Oct. 8, two Islamic fundamentalists shot and killed a U.S. Marine and wounded another on the island of Failaka. Both attackers were killed by other Marines.

Six days later, the U.S. military reported that shots were fired at its troops from two civilian vehicles in Kuwait's northwest, which the government closed off to civilians early this month.

About 10,000 U.S. military personnel are based in Kuwait under a defense pact signed between both countries following the 1991 Gulf War, during which an American-led coalition drive Iraqi invaders from the country.

While Kuwait owes its independence and security to U.S. forces, anti-American sentiment is rising here and elsewhere in the Middle East because of U.S. support for Israel, the war against terrorism and threats of an American attack on Iraq.

The victims were not identified, but a woman told a television station in Lake Charles, La., that Army officials told her one of the wounded soldiers was her brother, Larry Charles Thomas, of Lake Charles. Rose Thomas said her brother underwent surgery Thursday.

The U.S. Embassy said there was no evidence the attack was linked to terrorism. In Prague, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the attack was not necessarily linked to the U.S. military buildup in Kuwait in anticipation of possible military action against Iraq.

"There have been terrorist attacks in that region for my entire adult lifetime, and that's a long time," said the 70-year-old defense secretary, who was attending the NATO summit in the Czech capital.

The attack was the most serious against U.S. forces here since Oct. 8, when one U.S. Marine was killed and another wounded by two Islamic fundamentalists, who were shot dead by other Marines.

U.S. and Kuwaiti officials have played down several subsequent incidents in which gunshots were heard near American forces. Those were blamed on hunters and officials from both countries stressed that there was no evidence Americans were targeted.

However, the shooting Thursday appeared to confirm the belief that the presence of 10,000 U.S. troops and negative views of American policy in the region are fueling anti-Americanism, even though the government and many Kuwaitis support the U.S. military's role here.

The U.S. military personnel are based in Kuwait under a defense pact signed between both countries following the 1991 Gulf War, during which an American-led coalition drive Iraqi invaders from the country.