October 8, 2002: Al Qaeda attack in Kuwait

Two AQ terrorists attacked unarmed US Marines engaged in exercises on Kuwait’s Failaka Island in 2002, killing one and wounding one.

If you want to be a successful terrorist you might not want to pick on someone bigger than you.

KUWAIT – The US Marines have a very long history. Their ‘hymn’ – yes they call it a ‘hymn’ – gives you a bit of an idea of just how far back they go:

  • From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli...

The first part refers to the Battle of Chapultepec, part of the Mexican-American War, in 1847 while the second is a reference to the First Barbary War (more specifically the Battle of Derna in 1805). That is indeed some time ago.

The US Marine Corps was founded in 1775, when the government called for two battalions of Marines be raised for service as landing forces: they have participated in all US wars of the and are often the first to engage in fighting. Their motto? “The few. The proud. The Marines.”

In all truth the Marines are a formidable fighting force. Not only have they been part of every single US military engagement but they are seen as the most capable, a kind of ‘shock troops’ if I may. You do not want to mess with the Marines.

So, guess what happened when a pair of Al Qaeda (AQ) terrorists did?

On this day in 2002

On this day in 2002 two AQ terrorists attacked a Marine troop carrying out a training exercise on Failaka Island in Kuwait. Two Kuwaitis who had fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan opened fire on unarmed US soldiers, killing one and wounding another before they were in turn shot and killed when other Marines borrowed guns from their Kuwaiti students.

While the Marine presence in Kuwait was part of an annual exercise it was also an early step in the preparation of the 2003 US invasion of Kuwait, a disastrous decision that took the pressure off the hunt for AQ and its leader Usama bin Laden and led to the creation of Islamic State (ISIS).

Even unarmed the Marines were able to limit their casualties to two. Terrorists would be wise to pick on someone a little more their size.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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