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Kuwait arrests 12 over ties to Iran, Hezbollah

Israel sees Iran and Lebanese ally Hezbollah (pictured) as its greatest existential threat, a view shared by the leaders of the region's main Sunni Arab states
ANWAR AMRO (AFP/File)
The cell had planned to launch attacks across the Gulf state, according to the court verdict

Kuwaiti authorities on Saturday arrested 12 convicted members of a "terrorist cell" with ties to Iran and Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah after a weeks-long manhunt. 

The interior ministry said the 12 had been captured in different areas across Kuwait. They had been on the run since their sentencing last month, while two other convicted Kuwaitis remained at large.

The supreme court in Sunni-ruled Kuwait, which has a sizeable Shiite minority, in June overturned an acquittal by an appeals court and convicted 21 Shiites of forming a "terrorist cell" with ties to Iran and Hezbollah.

The cell had planned to launch attacks across the Gulf state, according to the court verdict. 

Kuwait has protested to Lebanon over the alleged training of the so-called "Abdali Cell" by Hezbollah, which has ministers in the Beirut government.

Last month, authorities expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down the military, cultural and trade missions of the Iranian embassy over Tehran's backing of the "terrorist cell."

Iran said the allegation is baseless.

Shiites account for around a third of Kuwait's native population of 1.35 million.

There has been an intensifying battle for influence in the region between Shiite Iran and its Sunni arch rival Saudi Arabia who have had no diplomatic relations since January last year.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has been advancing into southern Syria as part of their fighting alongside Syrian government forces in support of President Bashar Al-Assad, which is fighting to regain the territory from rebel groups.

Israel and Jordan have expressed concern that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, hoping to stake out a permanent presence in the region through Hezbollah, including creating a land route through Syria that would connect Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

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