Dateline: Kuwait City, Kuwait
By: Diana Elias
Via: The Honor Network
Priority News Exchange Program News Item (PNEP)
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Kuwaiti authorities have apprehended the person suspected of setting fire to a wedding tent and killing 41 people and said Monday the motive was personal. Local newspapers reported the groom’s ex-wife was the arsonist.
The inferno Saturday night in the tribal area of al-Jahra, west of Kuwait City, ate up the women’s tent in just three minutes and left behind bodies so charred they were unrecognizable. Guests likely crushed one another in a desperate attempt to flee. It was still unclear if the bride had survived.
‘A Horrific Scene’
Kuwaiti officials said 41 women and children died when a fire broke out at a wedding party in Kuwait City on Saturday. The deadly inferno lasted just three minutes. Authorities said 58 injured were still in hospitals, including seven people in serious condition with severe burns. Here, burnt debris litters the area.
The alleged arsonist has been identified and “confessed to committing the crime for personal reasons,” Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Mohammed al-Saber told state-owned Kuwait television.
Al-Saber’s statement made no reference to an ex-wife, and he did not answer telephone calls seeking comment Monday. But Kuwaiti newspapers speculated on the cause of the fire, saying that the groom’s former wife was to blame. The headline in the English-language Kuwait Times was “‘Scorned’ Woman Unleashed Fury.”
The independent Al-Qabas daily said the groom’s former wife, who is 23 years old, poured gasoline on the tent and lit it because she felt her ex-husband mistreated her when they were married.
A statement Monday from the Interior Ministry carried by the Kuwait News Agency said the perpetrator was in custody, but no name or details were given.
The “final and exact” death toll discussed in a high-level security meeting Monday was 41, said Kuwaiti Fire Department chief, Brig. Gen. Jassem al-Mansouri. Earlier reports Monday had raised the death toll to 43 after two people died overnight from burns. But al-Mansouri said after further investigation authorities determined that only 39 people died during the initial blaze. He said the bodies were so badly burned, it was difficult for investigators to determine how many people perished.
The chief, who described the fire as the worst disaster he’s seen in almost four decades of service, said 6 bodies were still unidentified and it was not known if the bride survived the carnage.
Fifty-two others injured in the blaze remained in the hospital, the health minister, Hilal al-Sayer, told the TV.
Al-Mansouri and the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the reports accusing the ex-wife of having a role in the fire pending an investigation. Authorities have promised to publicize the full results of the probe.
Kuwaitis celebrate weddings in separate parties for men and women, with children attending the women’s event which features singing and dancing and a dinner buffet.
In tribal regions, some hold these parties in tents, a custom rooted in Kuwait’s nomadic heritage. In wealthier urban areas, such parties take place in five-star hotels or special halls.
Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said that out of sympathy for the victims he will not be receiving the customary well wishers for the advent of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts later this week.
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