Kuwait tribes storm police station in pre-poll unrest

KUWAIT, May 4 (Reuters) - Kuwaiti tribesmen stormed a police station late on Saturday in an attempt to free men detained on suspicion of holding illegal primaries, in the latest bout of unrest as the country prepares for a parliamentary election.

Kuwait's ruler dissolved parliament in March to end a standoff with the government, setting the election for May 17.

But the campaign has been marred by protests, arrests and confusion after the government redrew the electoral constituencies in a bid to weaken the influence of tribes and Islamists in the next chamber.

The latest unrest began when police raided a meeting and arrested several people suspected of holding informal tribal primaries, which are illegal but commonly held in the Gulf Arab state ahead of the official polls, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried on the official KUNA news agency.

Thousands of members of the al-Mutair tribe protested outside the police station on Saturday demanding the release of their kinsmen while special forces surrounded the area to contain any violence, local newspapers reported on Sunday.

The protesters, including election candidates, threw stones breaking the glass doors of the police station, they said.

A number of tribes have defied the government's crackdown and held primaries, in which they agree on consensus candidates to boost their chances of winning seats.

The Ministry of Information banned media from broadcasting or publishing campaign commercials on informal tribal primaries.

Any person involved in the primaries could face up to three years in jail and a 2,000-dinar ($7,502) fine. (Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Lin Noueihed)