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Kuwait nabs al-Qaida group planning U.S. base attack

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwaiti authorities announced Tuesday they have arrested an al-Qaida-linked group that was planning to attack a key U.S. military base in the small oil-rich state.

The Interior Ministry said in a brief statement that State Security detained a "terrorist network" of six Kuwaitis who gave "detailed confessions" about plans to bomb Camp Arifjan, the main U.S. base in the country, as well as the headquarters of the country's security agency, in addition to other facilities it did not name.

The statement did not provide any details. However, Kuwait's Alrai daily quoted anonymous security sources on Tuesday saying that the group had confessed to buying a truck which it intended to load with fertilizer, chemicals and gas cylinders and ram it into the camp.

It was unlikely the attack on the vast American logistics and supply facility in the desert south of the Kuwaiti capital would have been successful due to high security. The U.S. military in Kuwait declined to immediately comment the foiled plot.

There was no indication when the six suspects planned to attack Camp Arifjan, located about 38 miles from the capital, Kuwait City.

The base was key to the 2003 U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. U.S. troops used Kuwait as a launch pad for the operation, which was opposed by most Arabs.

Camp Arifjan will likely be an essential hub for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. A Baghdad-Washington agreement calls for U.S. combat troops to withdraw by August 2010, leaving behind a residual force of 35,000-50,000 troops to train and advise the Iraqi security forces until a final pullout by the end of 2011.

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

But militants in the country oppose the U.S. military presence and have attacked American troops and civilians working for them in the past.

In October 2002, two Kuwaiti extremists opened fire on U.S. Marines training on Kuwait's Failaka island, killing one and injuring another. In January 2003, a fundamentalist civil servant killed an American contractor and severely wounded another when he ambushed their car near another U.S. army camp in Kuwait.

Six Kuwaitis and stateless Arabs are serving life sentences after being convicted in 2007 of planning attacks on U.S. troops and Kuwaiti security personnel. They were part of a group arrested after unprecedented street clashes with militants in 2005.