U.S. seeks to halt Kuwait 'goon squads'

April 03, 1991|By New York Times News Service

KUWAIT CITY -- U.S. military and diplomatic officials are pressing the Kuwaiti government to prevent further attacks against Palestinians like those that occurred in the first weeks after the end of the Iraqi occupation.

A half-dozen younger members of the royal Sabah family formed what a Western diplomat called "goon squads" and carried out some of the attacks, say diplomats, Kuwaitis and Palestinians. Other attacks came at the hands of low-ranking Kuwaiti troops and civilians at roadblocks.

"We're putting severe pressure on them that 'You don't want to look like Iraqis,' " said Col. Ron Smith of the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, which is working with Kuwaiti police. The command has taken over much of the day-to-day running of Kuwait and is also giving advice on the reconstruction of the country.

The pressure, say diplomats and Palestinians, appears to have made a change from the early days of liberation, when resentment of the Palestine Liberation Organization's support for Iraq led to abductions, beatings, arbitrary jailings and at least 10 deaths, according to accounts by human rights organizations, journalists and Western diplomats. Many Palestinians, who served as the major work force in Kuwait before the war, were rounded up and expelled from the country.

Nevertheless, as recently as last Wednesday night, Lt. Col. Ed McCarty, a legal officer with the Civil Affairs Command, found the bodies of two men identified as Palestinians in a garbage dump. He said there were clear signs of torture.

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