KUWAIT -- U.S. officials said Wednesday they were investigating whether al-Qaida had any links to two gunmen who killed a U.S. Marine and wounded a second before they were shot dead by American troops. Kuwaiti officials detained more than 30 people in a search for the attackers' accomplices.
A friend of both attackers and the brother of one told The Associated Press the pair were cousins who had been to Afghanistan, a training ground for Muslim militants, and carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Palestinians by Israelis. The friend said one had "chosen to walk in the footsteps of Osama bin Laden."
"It is a concern about whether or not there are connections between those who shot the Marines and al-Qaida, and we do not rule that out," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attackers' links to al-Qaida were being investigated.
The two gunmen drove up in a pickup truck Tuesday and opened fire on Marines engaged in urban assault training on Failaka, an island 10 miles east of Kuwait City. The attackers then drove to a second location and attacked again before being killed by Marines, the Pentagon said.
The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry condemned the attack and identified the assailants as Anas al-Kandari, born in 1981, and Jassem al-Hajiri, born in 1976. It said both were Kuwaiti civilians.
"This is a terrorist act," the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry said. "(We) will not allow anyone to undermine the country's security."
Mohammed al-Awadi, a Muslim cleric, told AP on Wednesday he was a friend of the attackers.
"Anas (al-Kandari) was in Afghanistan for a year and a half and he had chosen to walk in the footsteps of Osama bin Laden," al-Awadi said in a telephone interview.
Al-Hajiri was in Afghanistan for six months with his cousin, said the cleric. Both returned days before last year's Sept. 11 attacks.
Al-Kandari was very moved by footage of Palestinians killed in the violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories days before the attack, the cleric said. An Israeli raid Monday in the Gaza town of Khan Younis that left 15 Palestinians dead and more than 100 wounded has been heavily covered by Arab television stations.
"Every Muslim believes Americans are helping Jews, and he was burning to do something to help," Al-Kandari's brother, Abdullah, told AP in a telephone interview.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti authorities were taking "steps to round up those who we think provided assistance to the terrorists," Sheik Mohammed told reporters. Police said more than 30 people had been detained.
Sheik Mohammed added that military exercises resumed Wednesday, although it was unclear whether U.S. forces had returned to the island.
After the shooting, Marines found three AK-47s and ammunition inside the attackers' truck, the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet reported in a statement.
The injured Marine "was recovering from non-life threatening injuries," Lt. Garrett Kasper, spokesman for Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, said Wednesday.
Kasper would not provide the Marine's name or details about his wounds, although earlier the Fifth Fleet said he had been hit in the arm. A Kuwaiti Defense Ministry source, however, said Wednesday that the Marine was injured in the stomach and would be flown to Germany for further treatment, along with the body of his colleague.
On its Web site, the U.S. Embassy urged Americans in Kuwait to be vigilant.
Kuwait has been a Washington ally since the Gulf War.
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