U.S. praises Kuwait's arrest of alleged spy

Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 12:45 a.m.

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait- The United States on Sunday praised Kuwait for detaining a Kuwaiti soldier on charges of spying for Iraq, and said the arrest proved Saddam Hussein remains a threat to Iraq's oil-rich southern neighbor.

A well-connected Kuwaiti newspaper reported this weekend that the alleged spy, Sgt. Mohammed Hamad al-Juwayed of the Kuwaiti National Guards, was working on plans to poison a large number of American soldiers, to assassinate Kuwaiti politicians and to blow up oil and power facilities.

"We commend them for their work," U.S. Embassy spokesman John Moran said. "This arrest shows that Saddam Hussein continues to harbor aggressive intentions toward Kuwait."

The Kuwaiti Cabinet said in a statement Sunday that the "terrorist and sabotage" plans uncovered by al-Juwayed's arrest were a proof of the "aggressive nature of the Iraqi regime" and its "evil intents" against Kuwait.

Kuwait, which was invaded by Iraq on August 2, 1990 and liberated by U.S. forces seven months later, would play a crucial role in any future U.S.-led war against Iraq because of its location on the Persian Gulf at Iraq's southern border.

More than 17,000 U.S. troops have been dispatched here and tens of thousands more are expected in anticipation of a possible war -- which the United States says will be necessary unless Saddam rids his country of all weapons of mass destruction.

The Interior Ministry announced al-Juwayed's arrest on Friday, saying he gave military information to Iraq and spied on senior Kuwaiti officials "with the intent of facilitating terrorist and sabotage operations."

"We know his family. We know some of is relatives here in Kuwait. We've been shocked about what we heard regarding this guy," Khaled al-Jarallah, undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press.

Very few Kuwaitis were convicted of collaborating with Iraqi forces during Iraq's seven-month occupation of the emirate. The accusations against al-Juwayed have startled many Kuwaitis.

Al-Juwayed's house in Kuwait City was empty Sunday, his wife and two children having gone elsewhere.

Neighbors expressed dismay at the news of his arrest, saying the 40-year-old sergeant had little contact with them beyond smiling and saying hello.

They said he lived in the house -- like most Kuwaiti homes, a large and comfortable dwelling -- since 1985 and gave no indication he was a spy.

"This entire neighborhood is in shock. Nobody expected this," said neighbor Majed al-Sawagh.

Jarallah, of the Foreign Ministry, said Kuwaiti security agents on several occasions followed al-Juwayed to the United Arab Emirates, where he allegedly passed information to Iraqi agents.

Al-Watan, an independent paper known to have reliable contacts in the Interior Ministry, said al-Juwayed was involved in a plot to kill "a large number of [U.S.] soldiers through poisoning their food."

The paper said the Iraqis asked al-Juwayed, a food supervisor in the military, to provide information about the catering companies employed by the American forces in Kuwait.

Last month, more than 250 American military personnel suffered food poisoning at a camp south of Kuwait City. The U.S. military concluded the outbreak was an isolated case of salmonella poisoning caused by unsanitary conditions.

U.S. officials said they would not comment on details of the Kuwaiti investigation of al-Juwayed. Kuwaiti officials, too, refused to comment on the report about food poisoning.

Officials also declined to comment on a report by the Arab Times newspaper Sunday that said authorities are still looking for two men, a Yemeni and a Syrian, for allegedly aiding al-Juwayed.

Local newspapers reported that al-Juwayed's mother is Iraqi -- an assertion confirmed by his neighbors.

Kuwait is home to an estimated 10,000 Iraqis -- many of whom fled to Kuwait to avoid Saddam's persecution. It was not clear if al-Juwayed's arrest would affect their already precarious standing in Kuwaiti society.

"The way I feel is that there won't be any backlash on the Iraqi community because Kuwaitis know who is a criminal and who is good," said Afaf, an Iraqi woman living in Kuwait. She asked that her last name, age and profession not be divulged.

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