Kuwait is investigating accounts that a drone intruded its airspace and flew over the royal palace Saturday, the same day a devastating strike was launched on Saudi oil infrastructure.
Yemen’s Huthi rebels — who are aligned with Tehran — claimed the attack on two oil facilities which cut Saudi production by half, but the United States has blamed Iran and there is also speculation the assault may have been launched from Iraq.
Baghdad on Sunday denied any link to attacks on Saudi oil plants, saying it is “constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbours”.
But Iraq is home to several Iran-backed militias and paramilitary factions, putting it in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.
Media reports speculated that a drone travelling south from Iraq to the eastern oilfields of Saudi Arabia could have travelled over the sea or through Kuwait’s airspace.
Kuwait’s Alrai newspaper said that at dawn on Saturday, an unmanned drone about the size of a small car came down to a height of about 250 metres over the palace, before turning on its lights and flying away.
Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah has ordered the beefing up of security measures around vital installations in the country, according to a government statement posted on Twitter on Sunday.
“Security officials have started the necessary investigation regarding the drone that was seen flying over the coastal area of Kuwait City,” it said.
Another newspaper, Al-Rai, said that the drone continued for a considerable period of time and flew over the seaside residential palace of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who is undertaking medical tests in the United States.
Kuwait is an OPEC member which has land borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia and shares sea borders with Iran.
In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uniforms gather to learn the basics of self-defence.
Asma Hasnawi and her daughter Riham spend more than 12 hours a week learning kajukenbo, a mixed martial art the mother says boosts her child’s confidence and thwarts bullying.
On their left sleeves are the flags of Kuwait and the US state of Hawaii, where the hybrid martial art of kajukenbo was developed in the 1940s.
The sport’s name was derived from the various forms of martial arts it includes: karate (KA), judo and jujitsu (JU), kenpo (KEN) and boxing (BO).
Each form teaches techniques that can be used to fend off an attack, says Hasnawi, 33, who stands in class alongside her 12-year-old daughter and other girls.
“I initially wanted to explore this sport, but I continued to practise it to be able to defend myself,” she tells AFP.
Hasnawi still remembers being bullied as a child — something her daughter has struggled with at school too.
But she says Riham has “changed a lot” since they started practising kajukenbo, gaining patience and strength through the sport.
“She has transformed. At school, she used to get really angry and quickly agitated if someone would say something to her,” Hasnawi says.
“Now, it’s something normal that she can (healthily) deal with.”
There is no recent data in Kuwait on cases of violence against women, who enjoy more freedoms than those in neighbouring countries.
A 2010 study found that a woman is assaulted a day in Kuwait, according to Ghada al-Ghanem, of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS).
The WCSS, whose goal is to help and encourage women’s participation in the Kuwaiti community, has dealt with a number of assault cases and Ghanem believes the actual figure may be higher.
‘Strength and honour’
Hung on the red and black walls of the Street Warrior Academy is a poster of two men practising the sport.
“Kajukenbo teaches your child the methods and arts of self-defence,” it reads, complimenting the mottos of “strength and honour” and “street warrior” on the backs of the girls’ uniforms.
The students closely watch their instructor, Faisal al-Gharib, as he explains how to counter an attack with the help of his son.
The girls then pair up to take what they have learnt and put it into practise.
In another instance, the instructor’s son mimics an attack with a wooden knife on one of the more experienced pupils, who wears a black belt.
Already familiar with the exercise, the student explains: “I pretend that I have surrendered… and then I grab his hand on my neck, push it down and move it away.”
More than 120 girls and women between the ages of four and 50 participate in the academy’s different kajukenbo classes, which are held in a room with training weapons lining its walls.
Some 40 men and boys also currently take part in kajukenbo classes at the club on different days from the women.
For Um Saleh, the sport has helped her twin 13-year-old daughters become more independent and decisive.
“It gave them something to focus on other than social media,” she says.
Gharib, the instructor, established the academy in 2014 after learning kajukenbo in the United States. He says he wanted to teach the sport to women back home as a way to stay fit and to defend themselves against any attack.
As part of the training, he presents his students with different scenarios, including assaults and knife attacks.
“We focus on self-defence skills and place the girls in conditions similar to those on the street so we can build their self-confidence and teach them exactly when and where to expect the hit,” Gharib says.
The academy, which has a strict confidentiality policy, has become a safe haven for many girls and women that have been victims of assault or bullying.
It is one of dozens of similar clubs and academies that have opened in Kuwait as kajukenbo gains popularity. Although in the rest of the Gulf, the sport remains relatively unknown.
“Being a (victim) of assault, whether in school or on the street, is what pushed some of these girls and women to pursue the sport,” says Fai al-Fahed, one of the instructors.
“Ultimately, girls are embracing this kind of martial art and we see it boosting their self-confidence.”
Khalida Bashir says she was drawn to kajukenbo after watching clips of the sport online.
“I used to be afraid of everything, but this sport changed me,” she tells AFP.
“I have become more confident and more patient. Some say this is a man’s sport, but that is, in fact, not true.
Kuwait paid tribute to former US president George H.W. Bush on Saturday, saying his support during the first Gulf War “will not be forgotten”.
Kuwaitis have long expressed their gratitude to the late 41st president for backing the tiny Gulf Emirate following Iraq’s 1990 invasion.
In the wake of the war, many stuck bumper stickers on their cars of Bush standing in front of an American flag, and a few even named their children after him.
“Bush was an icon,” said Farida al-Habib, a cardiologist who says she smuggled medicine to Kuwaiti forces during the invasion.
“I cried when I heard the news about his death,” she added.
Bush died on Friday at the age of 94.
In a letter to US President Donald Trump, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah praised Bush’s “historic and courageous stance… and his rejection of Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait from the early hours”.
His support “will remain in Kuwait’s collective memory and will not be forgotten,” he added.
“On behalf of the Kuwaiti government and people, I express my deepest condolences and utmost sympathy.”
After dictator Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Bush deployed hundreds of thousands of US troops to the neighbouring kingdom of Saudi Arabia — urging other countries to do the same.
A US-led coalition expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait in a lightning campaign at the beginning of 1991.
Abu Fahad, a Kuwaiti army officer during the invasion who declined to give his full name, said he was “very saddened” by Bush’s death.
“He stood by us even though he was not a Muslim,” he said.
Bush visited oil-rich Kuwait in 1993 and was hailed as a “guest of honour”.
Tributes have poured in online for Bush following news of his death.
“We will never forget you,” Twitter user Manal wrote.
Lights at the landmark Kuwait Towers were set to be shut off Saturday evening and replaced with an image of Bush with Kuwaiti and American flags, the emirate’s information ministry said.
The Gulf nations of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman also sent letters of condolence to Trump and Bush’s son, former president George W. Bush.
Kuwait’s parliament on Sunday endorsed a new law on sport which it hopes will end bans from international competitions over alleged government interference.
World sports bodies led by FIFA and the International Olympic Committee suspended Kuwait in October 2015 for the second time since 2010 over alleged government meddling in sports.
In 2016, the authorities dissolved Kuwait’s sports bodies including its Olympic committee and football federation.
It later set up temporary committees in their place, but FIFA and the IOC have refused to recognise those bodies.
The official KUNA news agency said parliament voted for the new law “in a step affirming the independence of sports”.
The agency also quoted acting minister of state for youth affairs, Khaled al-Roudhan, as saying the law will lead to an end to the ban.
“Now we have a law that fulfills international conditions and criteria,” he said.
Roudhan added that he would soon write to FIFA asking it to lift the ban, KUNA added.
Analysts say Kuwait’s sports crisis, which has blocked the country from taking part in international competitions, is the result of a power struggle within the ruling elite.
Kuwait has been barred from taking part in qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, the 2019 Asian Cup, and before that the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The world bodies have set out three conditions for accepting Kuwait back: it must issue a new sports law in line with international treaties, drop lawsuits it brought against the world governing bodies and reinstate its original sports committees.
US ally Kuwait has given North Korea’s ambassador a month to leave the Gulf state and will downgrade its diplomatic representation with Pyongyang, a senior Kuwaiti diplomat told AFP Sunday.
North Korea’s diplomatic presence in the emirate will also be reduced to a charge d’affaires and three diplomats, the source told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The measures follow a visit less than two weeks ago by Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to Washington.
The source said Kuwait will not renew permits given to North Korean workers to re-enter the country after projects they are currently working on are completed “within one or two years”.
There are between 2,000 and 2,500 North Korean workers in Kuwait, and thousands more are believed to be working in other Gulf states.
Kuwait has also decided to stop issuing visas to North Koreans and suspend all trade relations and flight links with Pyongyang.
Asian diplomatic sources have told AFP that South Korea and Japan have been putting pressure on Gulf states to stop employing North Korean workers because money they sent home was benefiting the regime.
On Friday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific, responding to new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its furthest-ever missile flight amid high tensions over its weapons programme.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the missile test, and said talks on the crisis would be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting next week.
US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In have pledged “stronger pressure” on Pyongyang, Seoul said Sunday, after North Korea defied tough new sanctions with the test and said it wanted to match American nuclear strength.
Grand Slam Champions of China, Zhang Jike and LI Xiaoxia, have come back to reclaim the Men’s and Women’’ Singles title at the 2016 ITTF World Tour tagged ‘Kuwait Open’.
The tournament, which served off on March 16, witnessed Jike, who won the title back in 2013, but has been suffering several defeats on the international tour in 2015, looking determined to prove himself again.
The highly anticipated men’s singles final saw the reigning Olympic champion face-off with current world number one, MA Long, who has had a great year in 2015, claiming all three major titles available in 2015 which include: World Champion, Men’s World Cup Champion, and World Tour Grand Finals Champion.
Jike eventually prevailed 4-1 (11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 13-11, 11-9) to break MA’s dominance.
After his victory, the 28-year-old, whose last international singles title was at the 2014 Men’s World Cup, said: “Throughout the tournament, I was in form both physically and mentally, especially as the tournament progressed, things just went better. We know each other very well, so it’s normal that it was a close match. Even though I won 4-1, those 4 games were just by a 2-point margin”.
“I won because of my mindset. Ma Long is in top form lately, and has been winning many major titles in the past year, so I was ready to go all out to fight tonight. I think the most important aspect of competition is when both parties give their best to fight in the match, that’s most respectable”.
The Chinese also combined with his teammate, Xu Xin, to win the men’s doubles. The duo defeated Hong Kong’s HO Kwan Kit and TANG Peng 3-1 (6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5) to strike gold in Kuwait.
In the women’s singles event, LI Xiaoxia became the first female player to successfully defend her title, after beating 2015 World Champion, DING Ning, 4-1 (11-6, 2-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8).
“I haven’t been having systematic training for quite some time due to my injuries, so I have never thought that I could win. I think my mentality helped in my victory, because I came here without any expectations,” stated the surprised champion.
In an all-Chinese women’s doubles final, DING joined forces with world’s number one, LIU Shiwen, to overcome teammates LI and ZHU Yuling 3-0 (11-4, 11-6, 11-5) and avenge both their losses against the Grand Slam Champion in the singles event to take home the title.
The under-21 men and women’s titles were won by Brazil’s Hugo Calderano and Japan’s Hina Hayata.
The 2016 ITTF World Tour Super Series continues in Qatar from March 23 – 27, 2016, with the world’s top table tennis stars competing in the city of Doha.