Kuwaiti authorities yesterday identified the suicide bomber behind an attack on a Shiite mosque that killed 27 people as a Saudi citizen who flew into the Gulf nation just hours before he blew himself up.
Police have started making arrests in connection with Friday’s bombing, which took place at one of Kuwait’s oldest Shiite mosques during midday prayers.
An affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the blast in the normally peaceful oil-rich nation.
The Interior Ministry named the bomber as Fahad Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Gabbaa and said he was born in 1992, making him 22 or 23 years old.
It said in a statement carried by the official Kuwait News Agency that he arrived on a flight to Kuwait International Airport at dawn on Friday.
Authorities also said they arrested a 25-year-old from Kuwait’s bidoon community, identified as Abdulrahman Sabah Eidan Saud, who they say drove the car that brought the bomber to the mosque.
The bidoon community is made up of descendants of desert nomads and others considered stateless by the government. They have long claimed the government deprives them of citizenship and rights.
A Kuwaiti man who housed the driver was also taken into custody. The Interior Ministry described him as a follower of “fundamentalist and deviant ideology”.
The government-linked Al-Jarida newspaper reported that at least seven suspects had been detained in connection with the attack, which has drawn condemnation from Sunni groups in Kuwait and leaders from across the Middle East.
Officials say 227 people were wounded in the attack.
A local affiliate of the IS group calling itself the Najd Province has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The group considers Shiites to be heretics and is fighting Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.
More than a third of Kuwait’s 1.2 million citizens are believed to be Shiite. Officials said the bombing was clearly meant to stir enmity between majority Sunnis and minority Shiites and harm the comparatively harmonious ties between the sects.
Kuwait is a conservative Muslim country where alcohol is banned, but it is less strict than Saudi Arabia on issues such as women’s rights and freedom of religion. Kuwaitis reacted with outrage to the bombing. Some said citizens who fund Islamist armed groups fighting in Syria and Iraq were to blame for any militancy in Kuwait.