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KUWAIT: Armed mob descends on TV station after show that criticizes ruling family

October 19, 2010 |  8:44 am

_49558700_010442937-1The studios of the privately owned media outlet Scope TV in Kuwait lay in shambles Tuesday after a mob of 150 people armed with knives and pistols stormed its offices over the weekend, smashing windows and hitting the staff shortly after the channel broadcast a show that criticized Kuwait's ruling family, Arab media reports say.

Several members of the ruling family are suspected of having taken part in Sunday's attack on the TV station, which reportedly resulted in more than $1 million worth of damage to its offices and spurred it to halt broadcasts.

"They forced us off the air and started smashing computers, sets, studio equipment and cameras," Scope TV cameraman Fahad Rashed told the Associated Press.

According to the UAE-based daily Gulf News, the Kuwaiti public prosecution issued arrest warrants on Monday against a number of members of the ruling family for alleged involvement in the incident while police said the mob attack was led by Sheik Faisal al Homoud al Malek al Sabah, Kuwait's ambassador to Jordan.

Interior Minister Sheik Jaber al Khaled al Sabah has vowed that the perpetrators will be brought to justice despite their prominence and the high positions held by some of those facing arrest. One of the high-profile suspects in the attack on the TV station is said to be the head of the intelligence department at Kuwait airport.

"We will not accept an attack against anybody," the minister was quoted as saying by the Kuwaiti daily Arab Times. "I have been personally following up the incident through the senior officers deployed at the scene. This is an offensive act, and it is not in line with our customs. We are on top of the situation to forestall further degeneration."

The program that stirred emotions and ignited the attack was a live talk show in which the owner of Scope TV, Talal Saeed, went on air and accused the Malek family -- relatives of Kuwait's ruling Al Sabah family -- of trying to overthrow the founder of modern Kuwait in the early 1900s in a bloody coup.

Shortly afterward, the mob descended on the station, gaining entry to its studios when one of the attackers allegedly put a gun to a security guard's head.

Sunday's talk show does not mark the first time the TV station has stirred the pot by criticizing or mocking Kuwait's ruling establishment and religious leaders.

A few days before the mob attack, Scope TV co-owner Fajir Said was quizzed by Kuwaiti prosecutors over accusations that she had attempted to "overthrow the government" by means of a comedy show aired on the channel earlier this year that poked fun at Kuwaiti ministers and senior officials.

Fajir, however, dismissed the allegations and said they were fueled by politics, her lawyer, Faisal Enezi, told Agence France-Presse.

"My client categorically denied the accusations and said they were politically motivated," he said.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: The studios of the private Kuwaiti TV station Scope TV after a mob attack Sunday. Credit: Agence France-Presse