Letter bomb injures editor’s secretary

New York, December 11, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the letter bomb attack against the offices of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassah.

At around 12 p.m. today, a secretary for Al-Siyassah editor Ahmed Jarallah was wounded when he opened a large envelope addressed to Jarallah containing explosives. The secretary, Walid Dahdouh, suffered cuts on his hands and face, apparently after cutting a wire on a detonator, Jarallah told CPJ.

Jarallah said the letter, a large envelope postmarked Beirut, Lebanon, arrived in his office two days ago indicating it was sent by Ghassan Charbel, a well-known editor with the Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. Jarallah said the attacker used Charbel’s name “to mislead people that it was a normal envelope.”

Jarallah, who returned today from Saudi Arabia, said Kuwaiti military officials informed him that the letter contained the plastic explosive Semtex, but that it did not detonate. Had it exploded, he said, Dahdouh would likely have been killed. A white powder was also found in the letter, and Kuwaiti authorities are testing it to determine whether it is anthrax or another harmful substance, he said.

Jarrallah said he believed that the paper was targeted for criticizing “political and religious fanatics in the Arab world.”

CPJ sources in Kuwait said the pro-Saudi newspaper had been particularly critical of religious extremists and terrorism in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The paper has also lambasted those who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

“We are relieved that no one was more seriously injured by this criminal act and urge Kuwaiti authorities to use all necessary resources to identify the perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.