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SAUDIS SEIZE SUSPECT IN KUWAIT SHOOTING OF TWO U.S. SOLDIERS

Saudi Arabian authorities today arrested a Kuwaiti police officer accused of shooting and seriously injuring two American soldiers, a Kuwaiti official said.

Khaled al-Shimmiri was arrested in Saudi Arabia, where he fled after Thursday's shooting, the Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity. He said al-Shimmiri was expected to be sent back to Kuwait later today.

He also said al-Shimmiri had been a patient in a Kuwait psychiatric hospital. He gave no further details.

The attack on the U.S. soldiers came on the same day that an American missionary was gunned down in Lebanon, the latest in a spate of attacks that suggest it has become increasingly dangerous to be American in the Arab world.

Bonnie Penner Whitherall, 31, of Washington, a nurse and Christian missionary, was volunteering at a clinic for the poor in the Lebanese port city of Sidon. As she opened the front door at about 8:30 a.m., someone shot her in the head three times.

She was found facedown in a pool of blood. Nothing was stolen, and some observers said she could just as well have been targeted for her religion as for being an American, because of southern Lebanon's history of sectarian violence.

Whitherall, who was married to a British citizen, Garry Whitherall, had worked for about two years for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Lebanon, according to officials from the U.S. and British embassies.

The U.S. Embassy issued a warning on its Web site, asking Americans in Lebanon "to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution."

Prime Minister Rafik Hariri condemned the killing, saying, "There is nothing to justify this heinous crime."

The Kuwait shooting happened along a stretch of desert highway as the soldiers, in civilian clothes, traveled in an unmarked car from the U.S. base at Camp Doha toward a garrison near Oraifijan, about 35 miles south of Kuwait City.

The patrolman apparently flagged the Americans' car down, possibly for speeding, before the shooting, a Kuwaiti official said. But other reports indicated the attacker fired from his car as the Americans passed.

One of the Americans was shot in the face and the other in the shoulder, the Pentagon said; both were expected to survive. Their names were not released by U.S. officials.

One of the soldiers is a reservist based in Lake Charles, La., his wife said Thursday. Geraldine Thomas said an Army sergeant told her by phone that her husband, Larry Thomas, 51, had been shot in the upper chest and was in serious but stable condition after surgery.

No motive has been given for the shooting. Kuwaiti newspapers reported today that the suspect did not appear to have links to extremist Muslim organizations.

The shooting was the latest incident of violence against American soldiers in Kuwait, a staunch American ally since Iraqi troops were driven out of the Persian Gulf state in the 1991 Gulf War.

Some here fear that it could indicate growing resentment against America's military presence, which has dramatically increased in recent months. Kuwait could serve as a key staging ground in any conflict with Iraq.

The Kuwait government condemned the shooting and said it would not undermine military cooperation between the two countries.

On Oct. 8, terrorists slipped onto the Kuwaiti island of Faylakah and opened fire on a contingent of Marines, killing one and injuring another. The gunmen, who were killed when other Marines returned fire, later were linked to al-Qaida.

Six days after that, the U.S. military reported that shots were fired at its troops from two civilian vehicles in Kuwait's northwest.

Lebanon saw many attacks against Americans during its civil war in the 1980s.

More than 270 Americans were killed in shootings and suicide bombings, including two that targeted U.S. Embassy buildings and one that destroyed the U.S. Marine base in Beirut.

Other Americans were kidnapped and held hostage for years, prompting the State Department to declare Lebanon off-limits to Americans. The travel ban was lifted in 1997.

On Nov. 12, small bombs exploded outside three American fast-food restaurants in Lebanon, causing damage but no casualties.

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