The alleged ringleader of a terror group accused of attacking Americans and Kuwaiti security forces has died of heart failure while in prison, an Interior Ministry official said Wednesday.
Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, who is believed to be in his 30s, had trouble breathing while in prison and was moved the Kuwait’s Armed Forces Hospital, where he died late Tuesday, the official and the state-owned Kuwait News Agency said.
The Al-Qabas newspaper said al-Enezi was “in bad physical and psychological condition” when he was questioned by prosecutors. He was checked by doctors in the afternoon and died at night, the independent daily said, quoting “informed sources.” The daily is known to be reliable but its report could not be independently confirmed.
Al-Enezi was arrested Jan. 31 in a police raid on a house in Mubarak Al Kabir, south of Kuwait City. He was questioned by state security and then referred to the prosecution.
The government has been locked in a battle against militant Muslims since last month. Al-Enezi and scores of other terror suspects were being questioned by the prosecution on accusations of plans to attack the country’s state security as well as American civilians and members of the U.S. military.
Police have clashed with Muslim fundamentalists in four deadly shootouts in the last month, killing eight militants, including al-Enezi’s brother, Nasser. Five suspects surrendered in a raid on Saturday, though two were later released.
Forty suspects have been detained and are being interrogated by the prosecution. Others are still at large. Four policemen and two bystanders have also died in the clashes.
The violence has alarmed Kuwaitis, marking the first time Kuwaiti blood has been spilled at home in the war on terror.
Kuwait’s Interior Minister, Sheik Nawwaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah, told lawmakers in a closed meeting last month that the terror group was composed of 24 people, including Saudi Arabians, Jordanians and stateless Arabs who have lived in this oil-rich state for generations without acquiring citizenship.
Aim to set up an 'Islamic emirate'
In an interview with Al-Qabas published on Wednesday, the American Ambassador to Kuwait, Richard LeBaron, said the militants involved in the clashes were determined to “change the very nature of the system here.” Newspapers have said the ringleader told investigators their ultimate aim was to set up an “Islamic emirate” in this constitutional democratic country.
Kuwaiti authorities took “appropriate” and “strong” action, LeBaron told the daily in the interview conducted Feb. 4. A transcript was also posted on the embassy’s Web site.
The U.S. Embassy has repeatedly warned the some 13,000 American civilians who live here of plans to attack them. About 20,000 American soldiers are also in Kuwait, a few thousand of them traveling the country’s highways to and from Iraq.
As part of a campaign to spread religious moderation, the government has announced it will demolish unlicensed mosques where most of the extremist teaching is believed to be taking place. Internet Web sites that espouse militant ideology are also being shut down or blocked.
Kuwait is a major ally of Washington but its militants widely oppose the U.S. military presence in their country. Since 2002, they have attacked the U.S. military and American civilians working for them, killing a Marine and a contractor.