KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait said on Tuesday it had foiled an al Qaeda-linked plan to bomb a U.S. Army camp and other “important facilities” in the OPEC oil exporting state.
An Interior Ministry statement said all six members of the al Qaeda-linked cell had confessed after being arrested. It did not say if the targeted facilities included oil industry plants in Kuwait, the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter.
“The state security has uncovered a terrorist network following al Qaeda, and includes six (Kuwaiti) citizens who have planned to carry out a plan to bomb Arifjan Camp, the state security building and other important facilities,” the ministry said.
Camp Arifjan is located south of Kuwait City and serves as a staging ground for forces deploying in Iraq.
In Washington, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell applauded the Kuwaiti government action and said it looked like an attack on U.S. interests had been imminent.
“I can just tell you at this point, with what little information I have, that — that it does, indeed, look as though this group was attempting to target U.S. forces,” Morrell said.
“I don’t think it is clear at this point that Camp Arifjan was necessarily where they were plotting their attack, but clearly U.S. forces were among those they wanted to hit, based upon our initial assessment.”
Kuwait, the launch pad for the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq which ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, remains a logistics base for the U.S. Army to support its troops in Iraq.
The planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq has not discouraged al Qaeda from planning attacks on U.S.-allied Arab countries, including Kuwait, political analyst Shafiq Ghabra said.
“Their issue is not the withdrawal of the U.S. (troops), it’s also their ... regime, the existing elite, the existing ruling families,” he said.
Al Qaeda is now struggling to show they exist after setbacks in Iraq and Pakistan, Ghabra added. “They are trying to hit wherever they feel there is a weakness.”
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, there were a number of al Qaeda-inspired attacks in Kuwait, including a raid that killed one U.S. Marine and wounded another in October 2002. The government has since waged a largely successful campaign to stamp out violence by Islamist militants.
In addition, Pakistani and U.S. officials say they are quite certain Pakistani Taliban chief and al Qaeda cohort Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a missile strike by a U.S. drone last week, although senior Taliban commanders deny their leader is dead.
Al Qaeda’s wing in Yemen named a new leader earlier this year and said the group would expand the scope of its attacks to all Gulf Arab states, including top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
Reporting by Eman Goma; writing by Inal Ersan; editing by Firouz Sedarat and Michael Roddy