x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Police clash with Kuwaiti tribesmen who storm TV station

Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd that started hurling rocks, wounding about "20 security men and four reporters", according to a witness.

KUWAIT CITY // More than 20 people were wounded when Kuwaiti riot police clashed with tribesmen who stormed a television station in the second day of violence ahead of parliamentary elections.

Witnesses said yesterday that the fighting took place late on Tuesday at the offices of private Al Watan satellite channel, which was hosting the pro-government candidate Nabeel Al Fadl.

Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd that started hurling rocks, wounding about "20 security men and four reporters", a witness said.

Some of the crowd managed to enter the offices and damaged some furniture and equipment, but all staff members escaped unhurt. The crowd later attacked a nearby fire station, the witness added.

Around 15 tribesmen were arrested.

It was the second straight day of clashes between tribesmen and police ahead of today's elections for the 50-seat assembly. On Monday, an opposition candidate called Mohamed Bouazizi, the vegetable seller whose death triggered the Tunisian uprising that started the Arab Spring, a "martyr" before tribesman burnt down a pro-government candidate's election tent.

The tent belonged to Mohammed Al Juwaihel, who has made remarks deemed offensive to the Mutairi tribe, the second largest Bedouin clan in Kuwait.

Tribesmen consider Mr Al Fadl, a strong critic of the opposition, as a close ally of Mr Al Juwaihel, who disappeared after the burning of his tent late on Monday night.

Opposition tribal candidates had held a massive rally to condemn Mr Al Juwaihel's "derogatory" remarks and to ask the government to take legal action against him.

"We tell the [ruling] family that we are partners in governance and public funds and we are free people," the leading opposition candidate Mussallam Al Barrak told a crowd of 20,000 who listened to him under heavy rain. "Tunisian martyr Mohamed Bouazizi did not burn himself because of hunger but out of frustration."

Several other speakers demanded that Mr Al Juwaihel should be disqualified from contesting today's election over his remarks of "hatred".

Kuwait's royal court, many election candidates and a large number of political groups on Tuesday strongly criticised the Juwaihel incident as well as the tribesmen's response.

The royal court warned in a statement that the incident risked "fuelling divisions in society", and called on the Kuwaiti people to steer clear of anything that may negatively affect the elections.

The court said "orders were issued to take all necessary legal measures to hold to account" all those who took part in the incident, and insisted that "anything that harms Kuwaiti tribes undermines Kuwait as a whole".