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Sources: Kuwaiti imam may have aided gunmen

From Hugh Williams

• Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
• Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
• Special report: Terror on tape
• Special report: War against terror

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (CNN) -- The head of Kuwait's main mosque is under investigation for allegedly assisting the two armed assailants -- both believed to have been al Qaeda operatives -- who killed a U.S. Marine and wounded another during an attack Tuesday, according to well-placed Kuwaiti sources.

The sources told CNN that Yasser al-Failakawi -- the imam of the Grand Mosque in Kuwait where politicians and royalty come to pray and that essentially serves as the state mosque -- might have helped the two gunmen gain access to the island where the attack occurred.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior identified the assailants as Jassem Al Hajiri, 28, and Anas Al-Kandari, 21, both Kuwaitis.

The two were shot and killed by U.S. military police as they fled after opening fire on U.S. Marines conducting a training exercise. (Full story)

The attack was carried out on Failaka Island, which has been used by the U.S. military for training since the end of the Persian Gulf War. The island is closed to most civilians, but there are civilians who work on the island and have permission to be there.

Al-Failakawi is from the island and Kuwaiti sources said he might have assisted the assailants in getting on the island.

Immediately after the attack, Kuwaiti investigators launched a massive sweep, rounding up almost 200 people. Kuwaiti officials said as many as 30 of those -- who they described as Kuwaiti fundamentalists -- had admitted going to Pakistan or Afghanistan for training.

It was not immediately clear if al-Failakawi was detained with the rest of the individuals or if he remained free due to his prominence while under investigation.

Kuwaiti officials said the attack may have been the "first response" to the taped message by Osama bin Laden's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a primary al Qaeda strategist. Pentagon officials said they did not know if the leadership of al Qaeda ordered the attack or if it was the work of an independent al Qaeda cell. (Full story)

Kuwaiti officials said five individuals have admitted to a direct role in the attack. The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry also is seeking three to four other individuals.

Authorities emphasized they have received a lot of assistance from the Kuwaiti public and that there is not a backlash against U.S. forces among the general population.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the two Kuwaiti assailants had been in Afghanistan where they trained in al Qaeda camps. The two were also believed to have had relatives being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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