Arms cache find in Kuwait raises Shia militancy fears
The discovery of an arms cache belonging to a suspected militant Shia cell in Kuwait on Thursday has turned the spotlight onto the potential for further violence in the country, following the June 26 suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group, that killed 27 people in a Shia mosque.
The authorities aid they found 19,000kg of ammunition, 144kg of explosives, 68 weapons and 204 grenades hidden beneath three houses near the border with Iraq, from where the arms are said to have been smuggled.
While the interior ministry said that the suspects, the three owners of the houses, belonged to a "terrorist organisation" they did not speculate over any links to IS. Local media claimed the arms were part of a plot by the Lebanese Shia militant group, Hizballah.
"This plot by elements linked to Hizballah had been under surveillance for a long time," al-Anba newspaper reported.
If that does prove to be true, it would raise questions as to whether the Gulf nation could now witness an increase in sectarian tension and violence.
Shia make up around a third of all Kuwaitis, and, unlike other Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, intercommunal strife has been limited.
However, reports that a Shia militant group linked to Hizballah, and therefore Iran, may be building up its capabilities, will worry authorities - who made a show of presenting the aftermath of the raid to the press - and stoke the fears of some sectarian anti-Shia figures in the country.
Earlier this week a tribal parliamentarian told the news website al-Monitor that Kuwait faced a problem not with its Shia citizens, but with those suspected of having sympathy with Iran, an accusation that is often repeated across the Gulf, and used to justify the targeting of Shia communities.
"They have infiltrated all the key ministries as well as the ruling family," the unnamed deputy said. "They are planning to blow up the country from within. They are more dangerous than IS, which the entire world is fighting… We are aware that the problem is out of his control."
His comments referred to the visit of a controversial Kuwaiti Shia parliamentarian, Abdul Hamid Dashti, to Lebanon, where he met Hizballah figures, including the father of the late Hizballah commander Imad Mughniyeh.
Dashti kissed the father's head, angering some Kuwaitis, who remember Mughniyeh as the lead hijacker of a Kuwaiti aircraft in 1988, which led to the deaths of two Kuwaitis.