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Death of Kuwait detainee questioned

KUWAIT CITY -- The alleged ringleader of an anti-American terrorist group died of heart failure nine days after he was detained, the government said yesterday, raising questions over whether he was tortured.

Amer Khlaif al-Enezi, 29, died Tuesday, an interior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

A Muslim fundamentalist lawmaker, Walid Tabtabai, filed a written question in parliament asking Interior Minister Sheik Nawwaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah whether authorities holding Enezi had respected a law that forbids torture.

Tabtabai asked the minister to disclose the circumstances of Enezi's death and whether a coroner had examined the body.

Kuwaiti officials could not be reached for comment.

Police detained the former mosque preacher Jan. 31 in a raid on a house south of Kuwait City.

The government said that he and other detainees were wounded in the raid, but did not disclose the extent of his injuries.

His death follows unprecedented clashes between militants and security forces during the past five weeks that brought the war on terror to the streets of Kuwait.

Last month, eight suspected Muslim militants and four police officers were killed in clashes in residential districts.

Enezi and about 40 other suspects were being questioned by prosecutors on accusations that they planned to attack the state security forces, US troops, and American civilians.

The official Kuwait News Agency said Enezi had been admitted to a military hospital Tuesday with breathing trouble.

The independent Al-Qabas daily reported Enezi was in ''bad physical and psychological condition" when he was questioned by prosecutors Tuesday.

He was checked by doctors in the afternoon and died that night, the newspaper said.

Muslim fundamentalists, who are politically strong in Kuwait, have distanced themselves from Islamists who have taken up arms and condemned violence.

Westernized liberal Kuwaitis, however, accuse fundamentalists of promoting religious intolerance, especially among youths.

Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since the US-led 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation.

The American Embassy has warned about 13,000 American civilians in Kuwait that they could be targeted by terrorists.

The country also hosts about 20,000 US soldiers and many travel by road to and from Iraq.

US Ambassador Richard LeBaron has praised Kuwait's response to the recent clashes as ''appropriate" and ''strong."

In an interview with Al-Qabas posted on the embassy's website, he said militants were determined to ''change the very nature of the system here."

Newspapers have reported that Enezi told investigators the militants' aim was to set up an ''Islamic emirate."

LeBaron urged the government to clamp down harder on terror financing and to pursue educational reform.

''I think in Kuwait, as elsewhere, the society should be very concerned about what the schools are teaching and how they are teaching it," he told Al-Qabas.

The government has vowed to crush extremism.

It is taking steps to review school textbooks, curb mosques that spread militant ideology, block Islamic extremist websites, and promote a moderate interpretation of Islam through the media.

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