Kuwait Killings Highlight Dangers to U.S.

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Kuwaiti police guard the closed intersection where two American civilians were shot

Americans find plenty to remind them of home in Kuwait. The tiny Gulf State boasts glitzy shopping malls, Starbucks cafes and a bowling alley. Radio Kuwait takes regular requests for the Backstreet Boys and Christine Aguilera. But America — and Americans — are not embraced by all. A deadly reminder of that came at 9.15am Tuesday when an unknown gunman shot dead an American civilian and critically wounded a second at an intersection close to a McDonald's restaurant a few miles southeast of Camp Doha, the main American army base in Kuwait.

The slain American, Michael Rene Pouliot, 46, was an employee of a San Diego software company, Tapestry Solutions, who had been on the U.S. base before his murder. According to police at the crime scene the gunman or gunmen had crouched behind a hedge along the highway's edge. The victims, who were driving a gold-colored Toyota Landcruiser SUV, stopped at traffic lights signaling a left hand turn towards Kuwait city.

As the attacker or attackers opened fire, blowing out the Toyota's side windows, the car lurched forward, finally coming to a rest on a median strip 40 yards south across the intersection. Glass fragments scattered around the car where it stopped show that the killer or killers continued firing as the Americans tried to flee. The right hand side of the car was hit with at least 24 bullets and the side windows on both sides of the car were shattered. Blood pooled beside the car's front doors.

An official at the U.S. embassy says the unnamed injured man, thought to be the driver, was taken to nearby Al Razi hospital, and is in a stable condition following an operation. Kuwaiti and American military police set up guard outside the hospital. Plain clothes military investigators refused to answer reporters' questions saying they just "wanted to see their friend."

Kuwaiti forensic police found tire tracks and boot prints in muddy open ground 300 yards south of the shooting that they believe may be connected to the attack. A team of white-coated women took plaster castes of the tracks for further investigation. A policeman said tests would soon determine how many weapons had been used in the attack. The field running alongside the highway is crisscrossed with dirt roads making escape on foot or by car easy.

Tuesday's incident comes three months after two gunmen opened fire on a group of U.S. Marines conducting war games on a Kuwaiti island, killing one Marine and badly injuring another. Kuwait's interior minister later said one of the two extremists, who were killed when the Marines returned fire, had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Kuwait is a critical element of U.S. plans for a possible invasion of Iraq. The oil-rich emirate is likely to be the main springboard for any land invasion. More than 15,000 U.S. troops are already stationed here, training in the bleak desert south of the Iraqi border.

The threat of war with Iraq has raised tensions in Kuwait. Last week Kuwaiti police arrested a Kuwaiti National Guardsman on charges of spying for Iraq. Police say the man, Mohammed Hamad Fahd al-Juwai'ed, had provided the Iraqis with security and military information, monitored movements of Senior Kuwaiti officials and planned to carry out terrorist acts.