Cablegate: Shi'a Mosque Attacked by Youth in Jahra; Shi'a

Published: Mon 17 Oct 2005 10:50 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 004451
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2015
Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reason 1.4 (b)
1. (C) Summary: A group of youth between the ages of 14 and
18 attacked a Shi'a mosque in Jahra on October 7, burning a
stolen car, breaking the mosque's spotlights, pelting
worshippers with stones, and chanting anti-Shi'a slogans,
including: "Death to infidel Shi'a, agents of America." No
one was reported injured in the incident. Eyewitnesses
estimate between 50 to 70 young men were involved in the
incident. Police detained 12 young men, ten Saudis and two
bidoon (stateless Arabs), for questioning. No charges have
been filed against the youth. Shi'a clerics issued a
statement condemning the attack, which local newspapers
initially refused to publish. The statement was finally
published October 16 in the English-language daily Kuwait
Times under the headline, "Jahra Mosque Attack Sparks
Security Fears: Al-Zarqawi influence growing?" Shi'a leaders
told Political Assistant they fear the attack could signal
rising Shi'a-Sunni tensions in Kuwait. Many observers
suggest sectarian conflict in Iraq has contributed to the
growing tensions in Kuwait, but this is not the first
incident of its kind. End summary.
Shi'a Mosque Attacked by Youth in Jahra
2. (SBU) Around 8:00 pm on October 7, a group of youth,
numbering from 50 to 70 between the ages of 14 and 18
attacked the Shi'a Mohammed Bin Abu Bakr mosque in the
predominantly Sunni city of Jahra. According to
eyewitnesses, the youths burned a stolen car in the vicinity
of the mosque, smashed the mosque's spotlights, threw stones
at worshippers, and shouted slogans accusing Shi'a of being
infidels, of collaborating with "the infidel Americans," and
of supporting Iranian Supreme Cleric Ayatollah Ali
Al-Khamenei. No one was reported injured in the incident.
(Note: A similar incident occurred last Ramadan when several
shots from a small-arms weapon were fired at a Shi'a
husseinya, a traditional gathering place for Shi'a men, by
unidentified persons; no one was injured in the attack. Most
observers claimed the attack was sectarian-motivated. End
3. (C) According to Abdul Hussein Al-Sultan, Secretary
General of the Justice and Peace Gathering, a moderate Shi'a
political association, who spoke with the owner of the
mosque, Hussein Al-Qattan, after the incident, one the
slogans chanted by the youths was, "Death to infidel Shi'a,
agents of America."
4. (SBU) The English daily Kuwait Times reported in an
October 16 article that, despite being notified about the
incident at 8:15 pm, local police did not arrive at the
mosque until 9:15 pm, at which time they were reportedly
beaten by the "attackers." Multiple sources reported that
police arrested 12 young men involved in the incident - ten
Saudis and two bidoon (stateless Arabs) - between the ages of
14 and 18. Several sources also noted that National Assembly
member (MP) Awad Barrad, an Islamist associated with the
conservative Scientific Salafi Movement, attempted,
unsuccessfully, to obtain the release of the youths detained.
The Kuwait Times reported the young men were questioned by
police until 5 am on October 8. It is unclear if they were
released and/or charged with a crime.
5. (C) Al-Sultan told Political Assistant that Al-Qattan
complained to Interior Minister Shaykh Nawaf Al-Ahmad
Al-Sabah about the incident. Shaykh Nawaf promised to "build
a better Shi'a mosque, provide security for (Shi'a)
worshippers, and give the Shi'a a bigger area." According to
Al-Sultan, Shaykh Nawaf also asked Al-Qattan to inform him of
any additional threats to the mosque. A report on the
incident provided by Dr. Abdullah Sahar, a Shi'a political
science professor at Kuwait University, said the "victims of
the attack" do not/not think the Ministry of Interior is
serious about addressing the incident especially since there
was no discussion on how the juveniles involved were incited
to commit such an act.
6. (SBU) The October 7 incident was not the first attack
against the Mohammed Bin Abu Mohammed mosque, one of only 36
mosques belonging to Kuwait's minority Shi'a population,
which represents nearly a third of the population. (Note:
There are approximately 1070 Sunni mosques in Kuwait. End
note.) "Over the past several years, this mosque has been
the target of several aggressions and harassment," Hassan
Al-Issa, a liberal Sunni, wrote October 12 in the Arabic
daily Al-Qabas.
Shi'a Fear Rising Sectarianism Influenced By Iraq Conflict
--------------------------------------------- -------------
7. (SBU) In response to the mosque incident, more than 20
Shi'a clerics in Kuwait issued a statement condemning the
attack. A translation of the statement published October 16
in the English-daily Kuwait Times, stated that the incident
occurred "under the eyes of security men" and called on the
Government "to shoulder its responsibilities and protect
mosques and worshippers from attacks by Takfiri extremists."
(Note: Takfir is the act of identifying someone as an
unbeliever (kafir). Many Salafist groups believe Shi'a
Muslims are unbelievers, or "infidel." End note.) The
statement continued, "We are afraid that Kuwaiti press
reports about the Al-Zarqawi group spreading into the Gulf
region have become true." It concluded: "We regard this
incident as an alarm bell to all of us so the wise people,
scholars, intellectuals, dignitaries, and all sectors of the
people in this country can act to nip the sedition in the bud
before it rages and consumes, God forbid, the country and its
8. (C) One of the signatories of the statement, Mohammed
Baqer Al-Mohri, head of the Shi'a Clerics Gathering, a Shi'a
political association reputed to have ties to Iran, told
Political Assistant there were "definitely influential and
Takfiri people behind the youths involved in the incident."
Another Shi'a leader, Abdul Hadi Al-Saleh, General Secretary
of the Ja'afari Waqf, a Shi'a religious endowment, echoed
Al-Mohri's concerns, arguing that "Salafis, Takfiris, and
fundamentalists" were behind the attack. Al-Saleh claimed
clerics at a Sunni mosque near the Mohammed Bin Abi Bakr
mosque were "inciting worshippers against the Shi'a mosque."
He said Shi'a complaints to local police have been ignored
and suggested the police "sympathize with the attackers." He
concluded: "We have become desperate because of the absence
of any action by the Government."
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