Gustavo Ferrari  /  AP
Kuwaiti police stormed several suspected terrorist hideouts south of Kuwait City on Monday. The fighting, in Mubarak Al Kabir, also wounded three terrorist suspects and three police officers, officials said.
updated 1/31/2005 5:47:42 PM ET 2005-01-31T22:47:42

Police burst into suspected terrorist hideouts throughout a tranquil suburb Monday, arresting a reputed terrorism boss and setting off a ferocious gunbattle that killed at least four of his followers and a bystander.

The raid — the fourth in three weeks — reflected a new sense of urgency in the battle to crush Islamic extremists deeply opposed to the presence of U.S. forces in this oil-rich emirate.

Kuwait’s prime minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, called for the “uprooting of this phenomenon and the removal of this cancer before it spreads,” Faisal al-Hajji, the acting information minister, told the state-owned Kuwait News Agency on Monday.

Increased security
Kuwait beefed up security in late December around vital infrastructure, including oil installations, following terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, and soon after the government began conducting raids against suspected militants.

The first two, on Jan. 10 and Jan. 15, sparked clashes that killed two suspects and two police officers. On Sunday, security forces fought with militants in a residential district of Kuwait City in violence that killed three — a militant, a police officer and a bystander.

Until this month, militants had only struck at U.S. military targets, and the spilling of Kuwaiti blood deeply upset many here. Concerned citizens soon began tipping off police to hidden caches of weapons and explosives, authorities said.

Government hails ‘spectacular success’
In Monday’s raid, which Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Adel al-Hashshash called a “spectacular success,” police arrested six suspected militants, including alleged ringleader Amer Khlaif al-Enezi. The government said four militants and a bystander were killed, but Kuwait TV reported Monday night that one of the arrested militants, who was wounded in the fighting, had died. It was not known if any suspected insurgents escaped.

The government provided little information on al-Enezi, but a resident of the tribal city of al-Jahra told The Associated Press that he used to preach at a local mosque, exhorting young men to attack Americans, Kuwaiti security forces and even moderate Muslim clerics.

The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the preacher, in his 30s, was fired more than six months ago.

The interior minister, Sheik Nawwaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said the suspects targeted Monday were part of “an organized terror group,” but said their aims and their backers would only be revealed by investigations. Sheik Salem Al Ali Al Sabah, the head of Kuwait’s National Guard, has previously linked some local militants to al-Qaida.

The fighting early Monday began when police chased militants from scattered hideouts in Mubarak Al Kabir, a middle-class residential neighborhood south of Kuwait City, according to a police statement. The fighters took refuge in a house and a gunbattle broke out, police said.

Grisly TV footage
Kuwait TV footage showed the house’s windows shattered and its walls pocked with holes. Bodies lay face down on the roof in pools of blood, and a helicopter hovered ahead. A bearded man lay on his back, hands tied and shivering. Guns and ammunition clips were scattered on a staircase.

The battle was only the latest part of a government crackdown that began when the father of a Muslim extremist told police his son had befriended a group of militants and disappeared.

The son, Fawwaz al-Otaibi, was then killed in the Jan. 10 operation. Several accomplices fled in another car. The ensuing raids targeted al-Otaibi’s accomplices, authorities said.

Kuwait, unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia, has not suffered terrorist attacks on residential or government buildings. Extremists operating since 2002 have targeted the U.S. military, killing one U.S. Marine and a U.S. civilian contracted to the military. The U.S. Embassy has said that a building housing Westerners had been targeted.

Saudi suspects
Kuwait TV said one of the suspects killed Monday was a Saudi, and the three others were stateless Arabs who have lived in Kuwait without acquiring citizenship. One of those killed in a previous shootout was Saudi, and several of some 30 suspects in custody were also Saudi.

Kuwait has been a major Washington ally since the 1991 U.S.-led war that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation under Saddam Hussein.

Oman, which has yet to be hit by terrorist attacks, said Sunday it had arrested members of an organization that threatened national security. Earlier reports said the government had arrested more than 100 suspected extremists following unconfirmed reports they planned to target a shopping and cultural festival.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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