KUWAIT CITY, Feb 1 – More than 20 people were wounded when Kuwaiti riot police clashed with tribesmen who stormed a local television station in the second day of violence ahead of general polls, witnesses said on Wednesday.
The incident took place late on Tuesday at the offices of private Al-Watan satellite channel which was hosting pro-government candidate Nabeel al-Fadl.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd that started hurling rocks, wounding around “20 security men and four reporters,” a witness told AFP.
Some of the angry crowd managed to enter the offices and damaged some furniture and equipment, but all staff members escaped unhurt. They later attacked a nearby fire department centre, the witness added.
Around 15 tribesmen were arrested during the clashes.
The incident came a day after angry tribesmen burned down the election tent of controversial pro-government candidate Mohammed al-Juwaihel over remarks deemed offensive to the Mutairi tribe, the second largest Bedouin clan in Kuwait.
Tribesmen consider Fadl, a strong critic of the opposition, as a close ally of Juwaihel, who disappeared after the burning of his tent late on Monday night.
Election rallies in Kuwait are held in large tents.
Opposition tribal candidates had held a massive rally to condemn 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,” leading opposition candidate Mussallam al-Barrak told a crowd of over 20,000 who listened to him under heavy rain.
“Tunisian martyr Mohamed Bouazizi did not burn himself because of hunger but out of frustration,” said the outspoken former lawmaker, in reference to the Tunisian man whose death triggered the Arab Spring.
Several other speakers demanded that Juwaihel should be disqualified from contesting Thursday’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 to be held on Thursday.
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.”
Veteran opposition figure Ahmad al-Saadun charged that anti-democracy elements were trying to destroy the elections in which the opposition is tipped to win.
“This time we are before an abnormal struggle … Parties that will not come back (to parliament) will not remain silent … They want to sabotage the election,” Saadun told an election rally on Tuesday night.
The liberal National Democratic Alliance described Juwaihel and his associates as “puppets and destructive tools being moved by certain quarters in the regime.”
“We are witnessing serious score settling processes among sides in the (ruling) family and their tools are election candidates, the media and personalities,” the Alliance said in a statement.
Oil-rich Kuwait has been hit by a series of political crises over the past six years leading to the resignation of seven governments and the dissolving of parliament on four occasions.