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Civilian drives truck into line of soldiers in Kuwait

CAMP UDARI, Northern Kuwait—A civilian worker in a stolen truck plowed through a throng of soldiers in line Sunday morning at a PX, swerving to hit the GIs before he was shot twice in the chest.

Fourteen soldiers suffered bumps and bruises and returned to duty. One with a knee injury was being flown to Germany for treatment, military authorities said.

The attack came amid heightened security, a day after a car bomb killed four U.S. troops at a military checkpoint near An Najaf, Iraq. Iraqi officials had said more suicide attacks would follow, and coalition commanders ordered renewed caution around civilians in the war zone.

The driver in Sunday's attack was in critical condition after surgery. Officials said he was a third-party national, meaning he is not Kuwaiti or American.

Third-party nationals who work on the base are always supervised, said Col. Andrew Swanson, a spokesman for the U.S. Army III Corps. But on Sunday, a group of workers fixing an electrical unit separated, and their escort was able to follow only one group, authorities said.

Unsupervised, the man apparently locked his work mates in a cargo container, managed to start a small civilian truck and drove it toward the Post Exchange.

"We heard his engine revving and he veered to the left, and luckily, I went right," said Maj. Lora Elliott, a historian with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.

"He was just spinning his tires in the sand, and that's probably why more people weren't seriously hurt."

Elliott watched as he drove into the crowd of soldiers and sailors, who were lined up to buy goods at the Post Exchange about 10:30 a.m. local time.

"His eyes were wide, like he knew he made a mistake. Soldiers told him to watch where he was going, and then he just veered into them. He was fishtailing, he accelerated so hard."

An MP ordered the man to stop the truck after he drove into the soldiers, but instead he hit the accelerator. With the truck wheels spinning furiously, the MP shot him once and other soldiers pumped more rounds into the cab, authorities said.

The four other men on the work detail were detained, but authorities said they did not appear to be involved in the attack.

Camp Udari is the temporary home for the Army's 101st Airborne, the 4th Infantry Division and other units, which began arriving in Kuwait this weekend.

The injured soldiers were from multiple units and their names were not being released, pending notification of relatives.


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