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U.S. military scrutinizes security after accused spy tells of food-poisoning plan

KUWAIT CITY—American military officials in Kuwait were reviewing security procedures Sunday after an accused Iraqi spy allegedly told Kuwaiti authorities that he planned to kill American troops by poisoning their food.

Military officials would not comment directly on the report, which was first published Saturday in a leading Arabic newspaper. But they said the threat would be scrutinized and appropriate measures taken.

"There are threats out there, and we continually assess those threats and take steps to mitigate the risks to our forces in the region," said Col. Rick Thomas, a U.S. military spokesman.

The alleged spy, Sgt. Mohammed Hamad Fahd Al-Juwayed, 40, of the Kuwaiti National Guard, also planned to help Iraqi agents assassinate leading political figures and blow up oil and power facilities, said a Kuwaiti government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

American embassy spokesman John Moran said the arrest "shows that Saddam Hussein continues to harbor aggressive intentions towards Kuwait."

The story of the alleged plot was reprinted Sunday in local English language papers. The Kuwaiti official confirmed its accuracy.

"They did not catch him with any poison, but he admitted during interrogation that he planned to poison the American troops who are now in Kuwait," said the official.

The arrest was announced Friday, but the official said Kuwaiti police actually took Al-Juwayed into custody about 10 days ago after watching him for more than a year.

The official said the alleged spy met several times in neighboring Jordan with a Yemeni and Syrian who were working for Iraqi intelligence. The official said the Kuwait government has asked Jordan for help in arresting the men, whose identities remain unclear.

Al-Juwayed's mother is in Iraq, according to the official. It is common for Kuwaiti citizens to have relatives in Iraq, and separated families often meet in Jordan, the only country that maintains an open border with Iraq.

The Iraqis allegedly gave the sergeant "$40,000 to $50,000" for his services, the official said. In a statement issued Friday through the Kuwait News Agency, the Interior Ministry said Al-Juwayed had "provided the Iraqis with secret security and military information (and) monitored movements of senior state officials, with the aim of facilitating terrorist and sabotage acts against vital installations."

The official confirmed the Iraqis also asked Al-Juwayed, an army food supervisor, to provide information about catering companies that supply food to American forces in Kuwait.

The alleged plot's discovery comes as U.S. troops pour into the Persian Gulf for a possible invasion if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not turn over chemical and biological weapons and nuclear-related materials to U.N. inspectors.

About 250 American soldiers became sick last month at a camp south of Kuwait City in an incident that the military concluded was an isolated salmonella outbreak caused by poor sanitary conditions.

Food supplies and other necessities for American forces are overseen by a private contractor, Combat Support Associates, but company officials contacted at Camp Doha on Sunday declined to discuss the new threat, citing security concerns.

There are more than 17,000 U.S. troops in Kuwait, and more than 60,000 in the Persian Gulf, but that number is expected to grow to 250,000 in anticipation of war, which could come as early as the end of February.

Kuwaiti officials describe the alleged plot as an isolated case. Few Kuwaitis, they point out, collaborated with Iraqi troops after they invaded in August 1990. The occupation ended in March 1991 after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of the country.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.