Shooting attack in Kuwait leaves one American dead, one injured
KUWAIT CITY -- A gunman ambushed two Americans driving near a U.S. military base Tuesday in Kuwait, killing one and wounding another in what U.S. officials branded a terror attack.
The shooting was the first assault on U.S. civilians in Kuwait and the third on Americans since October in the oil-rich emirate, where pro-American sentiment is usually strong and where thousands of U.S. troops are assembling for a possible war on Iraq.
The victims -- civilian contractors working for the U.S. military -- were traveling in a four-wheel-drive Toyota when they came under a hail of bullets.
The U.S. Embassy identified the man killed as Michael Rene Pouliot, 46, of San Diego, an employee of a software development company, Tapestry Solutions.
Tapestry identified the injured man as another employee, David Caraway, a senior software engineer. He was in stable condition in a Kuwait hospital after surgery to remove bullets, including two from his chest. He also had arm and thigh wounds, a hospital official said.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack. U.S. and Kuwaiti officials said they believed a single gunman fired a Kalashnikov assault rifle at the vehicle. The attacker then fled.
"We condemn this terrorist incident, which has tragically cost the life of an innocent American citizen," said U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones.
The gunman apparently hid behind trees and bushes beside a stoplight at an intersection on Highway 85 three miles from Camp Doha -- a U.S. military installation housing some 17,000 American troops stationed in Kuwait, where 8,000 U.S. civilians also live.
In Washington, the White House said Americans were working with Kuwaiti investigators to determine who was behind the attack, which underscored the hostility some feel toward Americans even in Muslim nations considered sympathetic to the United States.
"The president's heart goes out to the families affected by this attack," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "It's a reminder of the dangers and risks servicemen and women face every day."
The men attacked Tuesday were in Kuwait developing software technologies that help military planners coordinate and gather information, their San Diego-based company said.
Pouliot is survived by his wife and daughters, ages 12 and 14, a Tapestry spokesman said.
"We are stunned by this senseless act of violence which has taken a great man and friend from our family," said Mark Young, Tapestry vice president.
A Kuwaiti security official agreed the shooting was a terrorist act. The government was quick to denounce the attack and tried to portray it as an isolated incident.
The deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, sent condolences to Secretary of State Colin Powell, expressing Kuwait's "strong condemnation of such criminal acts that target the historic relations and strong ties between the two friendly nations."
Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi said the shooting was "an act of an individual that doesn't represent the opinion of the Kuwaiti people."
Kuwait, critical to any U.S. war against neighboring Iraq, generally welcomes Americans out of lingering gratitude for the U.S.-led coalition that expelled Iraqi invaders in the 1991 Gulf War.
It is the only Persian Gulf country where large numbers of American ground troops are assembling and training for desert warfare in a possible attack on Iraq, which the United States has threatened unless Saddam Hussein rids his country of weapons of mass destruction.
The pro-American attitude among many of Kuwait's 2.2 million people is unusual now in the Muslim world, where anti-U.S. sentiment and opposition to war in Iraq run high. Yet recent events prove the emirate is not immune to attacks, some linked to al-Qaida.
A U.S. Marine was killed and a second wounded Oct. 8, when two Kuwaiti Muslim extremists opened fire on soldiers taking a break from training. The attackers, one of whom had pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, were killed by other Marines. On Nov. 21, a Kuwaiti policeman shot and seriously injured two U.S. soldiers after stopping their car on a highway.
In an audiotape that surfaced in November, a voice U.S. officials believe was bin Laden's praised the attack on the Marines as the work of "zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion."
Kuwaiti officials earlier this month arrested Sgt. Mohammed Hamad al-Juwayed, a Kuwaiti national guardsman accused of spying for Iraq and hatching plans to attack U.S. troops, assassinate Kuwaiti politicians and blow up oil and power facilities.
Although Tuesday's attack was the first on civilians, the men worked for the military, and in one previous attack, soldiers were driving a civilian vehicle.
In response, the U.S. Embassy was reviewing security. "We're urging Americans to be alert to their surroundings and to continually assess their security," an embassy official said.
Tuesday morning's ambush occurred along the edge of a built-up neighborhood with a McDonald's and other businesses.
Combing the scene were Kuwaiti and U.S. military police as well as black-clad Interior Ministry investigators wearing rubber gloves. The area was cordoned off with yellow crime tape, and the bullet-riddled Toyota had been taken way.
"We have full confidence that the Kuwaiti authorities will pursue the investigation of this incident vigorously and professionally," the U.S. ambassador said.