May 2, 2012 / 4:09 PM / 5 years ago

Kuwait says stateless protesters carried out criminal acts

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A Kuwait Special Forces officer removes a stateless protester after a rally in Kuwait's Tiama district May 1, 2012. Kuwaiti riot police used batons and armored trucks to disperse a group of about 200 stateless protesters, known in Arabic as "bidoon" and numbering up to 180,000 people, on Tuesday, the latest rally by descendants of mainly desert nomads seeking improved rights in the oil-exporting Gulf state.Hani Abdullah

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's Interior Ministry on Wednesday accused stateless protesters of carrying out criminal acts against police officers during a demonstration in the Gulf Arab state.

Kuwaiti riot police used batons and armored trucks to disperse a group of about 200 stateless protesters on Tuesday, the latest such rally seeking improved rights in the oil-exporting Gulf state.

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Known in Arabic as "bidoon" and numbering up to 180,000 people, the stateless are denied citizenship under strict nationality laws in Kuwait, whose citizens are entitled to generous welfare benefits.

"We regret the attacks by demonstrators in Taima (Square) and the shameful acts punishable by law that they committed," the ministry said in a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

Demonstrators "tried to run over police officers, destroy equipment and devices, ignite tires and block roads," it said.

Authorities said 14 people were arrested.

Kuwait's wealth has helped shield it from any major spillover of the "Arab Spring" pro-democracy revolts. However over the past year police have broken up several marches of stateless demonstrators that attracted hundreds in marginalized neighborhoods near the capital.

Deadlock between parliament and the government and accusations of graft against a former prime minister have also stirred unrest. Dozens of Kuwaitis stormed parliament in November in a series of events that eventually led to the dissolution of the assembly and a snap election.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall

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