The source said the suspects were referred for questioning late on Monday and that a second group was expected to be transferred to judicial authorities on Tuesday.

 

Al-Qabas newspaper said on Tuesday that they were alleged to have links to insurgent suspects in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group in Iraq.

 

The suspects were "plotting to attack US targets" and were "authorised to clash with Kuwaiti security forces if necessary", the daily said.

 

According to Kuwaiti law, suspects are referred to the judiciary by the police on the basis that they require questioning by a higher authority based on evidence supplied by the police.

 

The authorities say they seized
arms and explosives in raids

The prosecution is at liberty to take a number of measures, including referring them to court or releasing them.

 

A 15 January gun battle with Kuwaiti security forces left a Saudi man dead in Umm al-Haiman, south of the capital near the border with Saudi Arabia.

 

The shootout near the largest US military base in Kuwait, came five days after another clash closer to the capital left two security officers dead.


Saudi-style shootouts

 

The authorities say they seized arms and explosives in subsequent raids around the tiny oil-rich emirate.

 

Two suspects were killed in the two gun battles, while at least 15 others were arrested, according to Interior Minister Shaikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

 

Security forces are still hunting for an unspecified number of suspects who fled after the clashes, which were strikingly similar to regular shootouts between Saudi police and presumed al-Qaida suspects in Saudi Arabia since May 2003.

 

The commander of Kuwait's National Guard, Shaikh Salim al-Ali al-Sabah, said the suspects were members of al-Qaida who had plotted to carry out bombings in Kuwait.

 

The emirate has put its security forces on full alert, and security measures around oil facilities and vital installations have been raised to the maximum.