Al-Salem, a 66-year-old veteran journalist who owned and edited the weekly magazine Al-Majales, was killed on her way to work when an armed assailant opened fire on her chauffeur-driven car in Kuwait City.
The assailant, who was described as wearing a traditional long robe, apparently got out of a four-wheel drive car and fired several rounds into al-Salem's car while it was stopped in traffic. She died shortly thereafter.
According to Kuwaiti police and prosecutors, the main suspect, a police officer named Khaled al-Azmi, confessed to killing al-Salem. However, he later recanted in court, saying police had forced him to confess. One Kuwaiti source who was monitoring the case told CPJ that al-Azmi recanted on the advice of his lawyer in order to avoid the death penalty. CPJ could not verify this claim. In February 2002, al-Azmi was convicted of the murder.
Early in the investigation, Kuwaiti authorities said that al-Azmi killed al-Salem in revenge for an earlier Al-Majales article that he found insulting to the women of his tribe. The article, however, was written some eight months earlier-a fact that struck some as peculiar.
There was considerable speculation about the reasons for the assassination, including alleged financial disputes within al-Salem's family and other alleged disputes with some of her employees. In the latest edition of Al-Majales, according to press reports, al-Salem published an open letter claiming she had been harassed by the police.
In November, a source in Kuwait said there was speculation that al-Azmi may have killed al-Salem because of a personal dispute between the two involving al-Azmi's sister.