Kuwait, Oct. 8 (Reuters): A US Marine and two unidentified civilians were killed today on a Kuwaiti island in the Gulf, Kuwaiti sources said.
The Pentagon said Marines came under attack by two gunmen during a military exercise.
The incident occurred at around 11.30 am local time while the Marines were taking part in the annual Eager Mace live-fire military training exercises on Failaka island off the coast of Kuwait City.
The Pentagon and security sources in Kuwait said two men in a civilian vehicle approached the Marines and opened fire at them with small arms. The US troops returned fire.
One Marine and two civilians were killed, and another Marine was wounded.
“It is unknown who the gunmen are. The incident is under investigation,” said Lieutenant Josh Frey of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
Kuwait has named two Kuwaitis as the attackers.
A senior Kuwaiti officer said investigators were exploring the possibility the Marine was killed by bullets fired by fellow soldiers, saying: “The origin of the firing is still unknown.”
“It seems there could have been a misunderstanding on which areas were sealed off for the exercise and these people entered the restricted area which was followed by shooting. The two people in the car were killed,” the officer said.
“We are still investigating to find out what happened exactly and if indeed the vehicle fired first or not,” he added.
Earlier today, a Kuwaiti source said the Marines returned fire at a civilian vehicle in the area, killing two alleged attackers.
Bush pledge on Iraq
President George W. Bush said the threat of an Iraqi attack on the United States was growing, but insisted US military action was not imminent and pledged to work with allies against Baghdad if it did not disarm.
Iraqi politicians today dismissed Bush’s speech in Cincinnati as “full of lies” and one accused the US leader of being “like a beast which wants to eat small countries”.
However, some officials elsewhere found Bush’s tone more conciliatory.
In an address last evening aimed at Americans uneasy at the prospect of war, Bush said the threat from President Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction “is already significant, and it only grows worse with time”.
“If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side. And we will prevail,” Bush said.
The US and Britain accuse Iraq of developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and are pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to allow intrusive inspections of suspected Iraqi arms sites.
But fellow Security Council permanent members France, Russia and China think the US draft, which calls for use of force if Iraq does not comply, is too tough.
Russia said today it now backed the French position, which calls for postponing the threat of force to a possible second resolution later.
British foreign secretary Jack Straw, meanwhile, is touring West Asia seeking to drum up support from Iraq’s neighbours for the US-British line.