KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait has uncovered a network of Islamic State militants who fought in Iraq and Syria and detained some of its members, the interior ministry said on Thursday, a month after the group carried out the Gulf state’s deadliest militant attack.
The network included five Kuwaitis, a ministry statement carried by the official KUNA state news agency said. The statement said without elaborating that one of the five had been killed in “a terrorist operation” in Iraq.
The individuals admitted receiving lessons in the “science of a terrorist organization” and military training, the statement said. “They were involved in fighting operations in both Syria and Iraq.”
The Gulf state launched a security crackdown on Islamist militants after a June 26 attack claimed by Islamic State, when a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Shi‘ite Muslim mosque, killing 26 people.
The government declared itself at war with militants and said the bombing, Kuwait’s worst militant attack, was aimed at stoking sectarian strife in the majority Sunni state where the two sects have traditionally co-existed in peace.
An interior ministry source told Reuters the individuals named in Thursday’s statement were not connected to the June 26 attack. Authorities are prosecuting another group of suspects in that case.
Up to 30 percent of Kuwait’s 1.4 million citizens are Shi‘ite Muslims, who have enjoyed relatively good relations with the country’s majority Sunnis.
The Gulf Arab state however shares its borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and its northeast is just a few km (miles) from Shi‘ite power Iran, in a region in the grip of sectarianism.
Islamic State, whose Sunni jihadist forces have seized large tracts of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, views Shi’ites as heretics and wants to expel them from the Arabian Peninsula, including Kuwait.
Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, Writing by Hadeel al Sayegh and William Maclean; editing by John Stonestreet and Dominic Evans