| The body of a US citizen lies inside a bullet-riddled car after he was killed by unidentified gunmen on a highway north of Kuwait City. (AFP)
Kuwait, Jan. 21 (Reuters): A hail of automatic rifle fire killed an American working for the US military and wounded another in an ambush on their car today near a US base in Kuwait where Washington is preparing for a possible war on Iraq.
The US embassy condemned the incident as a terrorist attack. It was the third time since October that Americans have been killed or injured in attacks in Kuwait.
The men were ambushed at around 0615 GMT while driving on a highway north of Kuwait City near Camp Doha, the main US army base in Kuwait. Kuwaiti police said one or more attackers had opened fire from trees and bushes at the side of the road before escaping. Cartridge cases believed to be from rounds fired from a Kalashnikov rifle or rifles were found at the scene. The US embassy said the men were contractors with a firm working for the US defence department.
It named the dead man as 46-year-old Michael Rene Pouliot, an employee of a software development firm based in San Diego. The name of his injured colleague was being withheld until his family were notified.
Reuters journalists at the scene said Pouliot’s body was removed from a tan-coloured four-wheel-drive vehicle about two hours after the attack. Dozens of police sealed off roads in the area, and Kuwait’s interior minister visited the site.
One side of the vehicle was riddled with more than 20 bullets, and the windscreen was also fractured. Some of the side windows had been shot out completely. A pool of blood was visible on the road, until police covered it with sand.
“We condemn this terrorist incident which has tragically cost the life of an innocent American citizen,” the US ambassador to Kuwait, Richard Jones, said in a statement.
The embassy said the injured man had been shot in the shoulder and thigh and was in hospital in Kuwait City.
More than 15,000 US soldiers are in Kuwait and more are arriving every week ahead of a possible war with Iraq. The military also employs a large number of US civilian contractors to help run its camps. Last November, a Kuwaiti policeman shot and seriously wounded two US soldiers on a highway south of Kuwait City and the previous month two Kuwaitis attacked US Marines training on an island, killing one. There have also been several reports of shots fired at US troops training in the Kuwaiti desert.
Earlier this week Kuwaiti officials said they had arrested a Kuwaiti soldier suspected of spying for Iraq. Kuwaiti newspapers have said the man had been plotting attacks on US targets in Kuwait, including a possible attempt to poison US troops.
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it was not yet known who carried out today’s attack.
“We will work closely with Kuwaiti authorities to determine who is behind it. There’s nothing to report definitely at this time and the President’s heart goes out to the families who are affected by this attack,” he said. “It’s a reminder of the danger and the risk that our service men and women face every day in service to our country.” Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah sent his condolences to his US counterpart Colin Powell.
“Kuwait strongly condemns such criminal acts which aim to harm the relations and strong ties between two friendly countries,” the state news agency quoted him as saying.