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A prominent Kuwaiti banker on Monday accused the ruling al-Sabah family of hiring hit squads to kill leaders of Kuwait's pro-democracy movement. Kuwait's ambassador, a family member, denied the allegation.

Abdul Aziz Sultan, chairman of the Gulf Bank of Kuwait, said in an interview on ABC-TV's "Nightline" that he has "strong reason to believe that some members of the al-Sabah family are setting up some assassination task here in Kuwait."Sultan said the squads consist of ex-members of the Kuwaiti secret police. He said the goal is to enforce the rule of the al-Sabah family in the newly liberated emirate.

"We do have some hard evidence," Sultan said. "But I'm really not at liberty to divulge that." He said he was airing the allegations to help avert further violence.

The program also included an interview with a hospitalized pro-democracy opposition leader, Hammad al-Johan, who was wounded a few days ago by a man he identified as a Kuwaiti who entered his home and shot him point blank.

Al-Johan said "no comment" when asked who was behind the shooting, but he said it was done deliberately by a man who tried to give the impression that he knew him.

Kuwait's ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah, said his government strongly condemns the shooting of al-Johan and denied that the ruling family had anything to do with the shooting or any assassination plot targeting other pro-democracy leaders.

Al-Sabah, also appearing on "Nightline", said he was "extremely disappointed" with Sultan's allegations.