Truck hits U.S. troops in Kuwait, injuring 15


KUWAIT CITY -- A man in civilian clothes drove his pickup truck into a group of U.S. soldiers outside a store at a military base in northern Kuwait yesterday, injuring 15 of them, officials said. The driver was shot and critically wounded by soldiers who saw the apparent attack.

Fourteen soldiers suffered minor injuries, and one was sent to Germany to receive treatment for an injured knee.

The incident occurred about noon and came one day after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a taxi at a checkpoint near the southern Iraq town of Najaf, killing four U.S. soldiers.

The soldiers injured yesterday were at Camp Udairi, a V Corps aviation base that is also used for maintenance and supply. It is the northernmost U.S. base in Kuwait, near Iraq's border.

Officials would not release the nationality of the driver, but they said he was neither American nor Kuwaiti. More than half of the people living in Kuwait are workers from other countries, including the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and other Middle Eastern nations.

"There were shots fired by the uninjured soldiers at the vehicle, and at this point the incident is under investigation," the U.S. military said in a statement. "The driver received two gunshot wounds in the upper chest and shoulder region and is in critical condition."

Coalition troops and Kuwaiti police had tightened checkpoints and safety procedures in Iraq and Kuwait after Saturday's suicide bombing. Yesterday, U.S. soldiers at the Kuwait Hilton, where the military's news media operations are based, insisted that reporters wear their credentials in clear view. In Kuwait City, lines of cars waiting to pass checkpoints on major roads and highways were longer than usual as police scrutinized identification more closely than in previous days.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who bestowed posthumous honors on the soldier identified as the bomber in Saturday's attack, rewarded his family yesterday with about $34,000.

Iraq's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, has warned that suicide attacks on coalition forces would become "routine" and said fighters for Iraq would attack wherever U.S. interests are found, including on American soil.

Gen. Tommy Franks, briefing reporters yesterday in Qatar, said Hussein's regime was showing its contempt for international law and the rules of war by sanctioning suicide attacks, but Franks said he did not have enough information to determine whether the incident yesterday was directly related.

"It was obvious that the modus of the second attack was not at all like the first attack," he said, adding that it was not surprising "that a dying regime would undertake such tactics as suicide bombers. Remarkable is the connection all the way to the top of the Iraqi regime. That attack was just endorsed by those in power in Baghdad. Remarkable."

Kuwait has not offered troops in the war but has been the major staging ground for coalition forces and has housed U.S. troops since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, much to the displeasure of many Arab countries. The country has been the scene of several attacks on Americans since October.

Islamic extremists were blamed for the Jan. 21 shooting that killed a San Diego computer contractor and injured another American close to Camp Doha, where U.S. forces are based.

A Kuwaiti policeman was sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting and seriously wounding two U.S. soldiers Nov. 21.

In October, Muslim fundamentalists killed one U.S. Marine and injured another on a Kuwaiti island. Other Marines killed the gunmen.

And on March 23, a grenade attack killed two U.S. officers and wounded 14 soldiers at a 101st Airborne Division camp in Kuwait. A U.S. soldier, Asan Akbar, 32, is being held in the case.

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