Counter-Terrorism: They Were Such Good Boys


August 14, 2009: Kuwait recently arrested six Kuwaiti men and accused them of planning to drive a truck bomb into an American supply base out in the Kuwaiti desert (60 kilometers from Kuwait City). What's interesting about this is that five of those arrested, had been arrested, tried and convicted of Islamic terrorist activity in 2002. The five men, all cousins, had helped two other cousins get weapons and access to the island of Failaka, off the Kuwaiti coast. There, in October, 2002, the two men fired on some U.S. Marines engaged in training for urban warfare. One marine was wounded and another killed. But return fire killed the two attackers, and their five cousins were eventually tracked down. However, an appeals court commuted the prison sentence to fines.

This sort of thing is common in the Arab world, where the concept of group responsibility is taken more seriously. The extended family of the two dead terrorists (and their five cousins) were shamed by the attack, and made promises and assurances that the five surviving terrorists would behave in the future. As the current incident revealed, this was not the case. Same thing has been happening in Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of terrorist suspects, or even those convicted of terrorist activities, have gotten out of long prison sentences by promising to shape up, and being backed by their extended families. Some of the Saudi terrorists have returned to violence, despite the damage this did to their clans.

In some cases, it was family members who tipped off the police that someone who promised to behave, was back to plotting terror attacks. While some of the more immediate kin are probably willing to give these guys another break, the majority of the clan are probably not willing to try for three disgraceful acts. The Arab approach does keep a lot of potential terrorists out of trouble, but the system is not perfect. The Kuwaiti courts have also become less compassionate since 2002-3, and dozens of Kuwaitis are serving hard time for terrorist activities.


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