Iraq probes shootout with Kuwaiti coast guard

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Iraq probes shootout with Kuwaiti coast guard

Post by BLACK on Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:04 am

BAGHDAD: Iraqi fishermen killed a Kuwaiti coast guard member during a shootout in one of the more serious incidents between the neighboring countries in years, Iraqi officials said Tuesday.

Tensions between Iraq and Kuwait have been strained since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by President Saddam Hussein and the narrow body of water between the two countries has yet to be clearly demarcated making it a lingering flashpoint.

There have been constant, low-level incidents between the two countries along the narrow waterway that separates them, with Iraqi fishermen complaining of harassment by Kuwaitis and the Kuwaiti government maintaining that the fishermen do not respect their boundaries. But the latest incident was one of the most serious between the two countries in years.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said in a statement that a Kuwaiti officer was killed in the skirmish Monday in the Gulf, and his men responded by sinking the Iraqi boat.

Al-Dabbagh said four Iraqi fishermen were then detained by the Kuwaitis. Iraqi authorities are questioning another five Iraqis involved in the incident.

He gave no details about how the shootout began and said “such regrettable incidents” should not affect the good relations between the two countries.

“This incident shows the necessity of joint work between Iraq and Kuwait to control the borders,” he said.

Local Iraqi officials blamed the Kuwaiti coast guard for the incident.

The mayor of Faw, one of the southernmost towns in Iraq, told the Associated Press that Kuwaiti forces opened fire on nine Iraqi fishermen near an Iraqi oil platform in the Gulf, sinking the boat.

“The Kuwaiti and Iranian forces have been trying to control the Iraqi waters since 2003 and target the Iraqi fishermen’s boats from time to time,” said Waleed Al-Sharefi.

But Kuwait’s government said Iraq was to blame; in a press release, the Kuwaiti government said an Iraqi fishing vessel strayed into Kuwaiti waters, the Iraqi sailors ignored requests to leave and then opened fire on the coast guard.

One Kuwaiti coast guard member was killed while four Iraqi fishermen were detained, said the statement.

Elsewhere in Iraq there was scattering of violent incidents including a car bomb targeting a passing police patrol which killed one policeman and wounded four others in the town of Shurqat, 250 km northwest of Baghdad, security officials said.

Dr. Ahmed Mawlood of the town’s hospital confirmed the casualty figures.

Also in Baghdad, five people were wounded in separate blasts in the capital, police and hospital officials said.

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