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Kuwaitis show unity after Shia mosque blast

Kuwait's emir ordered that the victims be considered martyrs for the nation [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 July, 2015

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A week after a deadly suicide attack at a Shia mosque claimed by Islamic State, Kuwait seeks to ward off sectarian tensions and prevent any further attacks.
Sunni and Shia religious and political figures in Kuwait are presenting a united front, a week after a deadly bombing at a Shia mosque left 26 people dead. 

The blast hit the al-Imam al-Sadiq mosque in a busy area of Kuwait City's al-Sawabir district, during last Friday's midday prayers, which are typically the most crowded of the week. 

The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State (IS), a Sunni extremist group that sees Shias as heretics.
     The Kuwaiti people gave yet another example of national unity. We became united as we were during the Iraqi invasion

Kuwait is now working to ward off sectarian tensions and has adopted measures to try to prevent another attack by the group, deploying unprecedented security measures around Shia mosques for Friday prayers.

The mosques were completely cordoned off, and roads leading to them were closed to traffic, as security men and volunteers stood guard.

Kuwait's emir also attended a rare Shia-Sunni joint ceremony in a show of unity on Friday.

Last week, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah visited the al-Imam al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City only minutes after the attack by IS.

Shias, who make up about a third of the oil-rich Gulf state's 1.3 million citizens, have complained in the past of discrimination in the Sunni-ruled emirate. 

The emir ordered that the victims be considered martyrs for the nation, in a response that was well-received by Shias.

"They (the extremists) wanted to stir a conflict between the two sects but found there is only one religion and a united people," parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem said at a reception for relatives of the victims.

Shia leaders agreed.

"The Kuwaiti people gave yet another example of national unity. We became united as we were during the Iraqi invasion" in 1990, the senior cleric at the targeted mosque, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mazeedi, said at the same reception.

Shia MP Yousef al-Zalzalah said in parliament: "The Kuwaiti people have sent a clear message to terrorists that you will never divide this society."

Kuwait's largest Sunni mosque held three days of mourning and accepted condolences in a show of solidarity, while senior officials spoke out against Sunni-Shia divisions.

Kuwaiti political analyst Dhafer al-Ajmi said that if anything the bombing had brought Kuwaitis closer together.

"I believe this huge bombing will greatly contribute to boosting national unity," he said.

"Kuwait's society is more immune (to sectarian divisions) than other Gulf societies because of democracy and the high standard of freedoms."

Security tightened 

Kuwaiti authorities arrested several people linked to the Saudi national who allegedly carried out the bombing for IS. Five have been referred to prosecutors to face trial in a special court.

Declaring itself in a state of war against "terrorism", Kuwait placed police and security agencies on high alert, upgraded its security plan and beefed up measures around oil facilities and other vital installations.

In a bid to prevent further attacks, parliament on Wednesday adopted a law requiring mandatory DNA testing on all the country's citizens and foreign residents to help security agencies make quicker arrests in criminal cases.

Politicians also approved $400 million in emergency funding for the interior ministry, though some warned the new measures may still not be enough.

Despite this, many Kuwaitis remain concerned about the new attacks.

"What are the guarantees that new bombings will not take place," independent MP Jamal al-Omar asked during a parliamentary debate.

"We need a crisis management agency and the government should set up a war council," Omar said.

"We can't really say that this was the last terror attack in Kuwait," liberal MP Rakan al-Nasef warned during the debate.

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