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Sat, Mar 29, 2003

Missile Fired at Kuwait City

No Warning, No One Hurt, Damage Minimal

We don't yet know who fired it (Iraq is the main suspect), nor do we know why the air raid sirens were silent. A missile exploded near a major shopping mall in Kuwait City early Saturday, but Kuwaiti and American military officials said it caused no injuries and little damage.

It was the closest that a missile has come to Kuwait City since the war began in neighboring Iraq on March 20. And there was apparently no warning. Police Brig. Ahmed al-Rujaid, appearing on national television, said the missile landed at about 1:45 a.m.(5:45 p.m. EST Friday), close to the Souq Sharq mall, a multilevel shopping center, one of the biggest in Kuwait.

Someone Sleeping On The Job?

No air raid siren sounded before the explosion, which shattered windows, blasted the glass door at the front of the mall and blew out huge chunks of plater from the adjacent parking structure.

"There were no injuries and material damage is very small," al-Rujaid said.

Parts of the ceiling and walls littered the ground in a covered plaza in front of the mall after the explosion. Television images also showed smoke rising over the Kuwaiti skyline.

Souq Sharq is on the Kuwaiti seafront and includes a marina, shops and restaurants. The mall is about half a mile from Sief Palace, the official seat of the emir of Kuwait. The emir, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, lives in Dasman palace, about two miles further away.

At the Pentagon, a senior defense official said initial reports indicated that U.S. anti-missile defenses picked up no sign of a missile engine plume, suggesting that what hit Kuwait City was not a long-range ballistic missile. The official stressed, however, that the situation was not clear.

Air Strikes Didn't Stop This One

The U.S. military announced Friday that Navy F/A-18 warplanes struck three Al Samoud ballistic missile launchers. The launchers were about 25 miles northwest of the Iraqi city of Basra, just north of the Kuwait border.

It said the strike was part on an ongoing effort to prevent Iraq from attacking U.S. forces in the area or neighboring countries. Al Samouds have a range of more than 95 miles, according to the United Nations.

U.S. Patriot missile batteries guard Kuwait against missile attacks by neighboring Iraq. In Doha, Qatar, the U.S. Central Command said it was investigating the explosion but had no further information and could not confirm a missile attack.

Lucky Number

It was the 13th missile fired at Kuwait since the US-led military campaign to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein began. None is believed to have carried chemical or biological warheads, and none has caused damage or injury. Several have been destroyed by Patriots.

On Thursday, civilian defense officials in Kuwait said an American Patriot PAC-3 missile knocked down an Iraqi missile fired from southern Iraq. No debris was reported to have fallen on populated areas. Air raid sirens have sounded repeatedly since the war began last week, cautioning the 2.3 million residents of this small, oil-rich state to take cover. Four of the missile strikes were believed to involve Scuds — which Iraq also is banned from possessing. Two others were identified as Chinese-made surface-to-surface Silkworm missiles, Kuwait officials said.

Within hours of the first US strike on Baghdad last week, sirens blared throughout Kuwait City, sending jittery residents scrambling for bomb shelters, some carrying gas masks and chemical suits.

FMI: www.centcom.mil

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