Kuwait Sunday identified the suicide bomber behind its worst militant attack as a young Saudi man, and said it had detained the driver of the vehicle that took him to a Shiite mosque where he killed 27 people.
The disclosure of the bomber’s Saudi nationality is likely to focus the attention of authorities investigating Friday’s suicide bombing on ties between Islamists in the small Gulf state and those in its larger, more conservative neighbor.
The Interior Ministry named the bomber as Fahd Suliman Abdel-Mohsen al-Qabaa and said he flew into Kuwait’s airport at dawn Friday, only hours before he detonated an explosives-laden vest at Kuwait City’s Imam al-Sadeq Mosque.
It was not immediately known where Qabaa had arrived from, but the timing of his arrival suggests he had a network already in place in Kuwait. The ministry said it was searching for more partners and aides in this “despicable crime,” adding Qabaa had been born in 1992, putting him in his early 20s.
ISIS’ Saudi Arabian arm claimed responsibility for the attack on the mosque, where 2,000 worshippers were praying at the time. It was one of three attacks on three continents that day apparently linked to hardline Islamists.
The attack was the most significant act of Sunni militant violence in Kuwait since 2005, when an Al-Qaeda-linked group calling itself the Peninsula Lions clashed with security forces in the streets of Kuwait City. Nine Islamists and four security force members were killed in the gunbattles.
The bombing has sharply heightened regional security concerns as ISIS appears to be making good on its threat to step up attacks in the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The group, seeking to expand from strongholds in Iraq and Syria, says its priority target is the Arabian Peninsula and in particular Saudi Arabia from where it plans to expel Shiites.
The ministry said the driver of the Japanese-made car, who left the mosque immediately after Friday’s bombing, was an illegal resident named Abdel-Rahman Sabah Aidan. The phrasing of its statement suggests Aidan belongs to the “Bidoon,” a large underclass in Kuwait lacking citizenship and access to jobs.
The Interior Ministry, which had earlier reported the vehicle owner’s arrest, said Aidan, 26, was found hiding in one of the houses in the Al-Riqqa residential area.
“Initial investigations showed that the owner of the house is a supporter of the deviant ideology,” the ministry said, employing a term often used by authorities in the Gulf Arab region to refer to hard-line Islamist militants.
The owner of the house, a Kuwaiti citizen, was also detained, the ministry said.
Kuwait’s Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said the government will examine Monday new security legislation. “The Cabinet will discuss this issue Monday,” Omair said when asked about a government plan to introduce anti-terror legislation. He provided no details.
Several MPs have said they would pass any such legislation needed to crack down on extremists.
“If they need more legislation, we are prepared in order to strike at the elements of evil and terrorism,” Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti said in a statement.
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah instructed authorities Sunday to repair the mosque damaged by the blast.
Local media said 18 of those killed were Kuwaitis, three Iranians, two Indians, one each from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and one Bidoon.
The breakthroughs in the bombing probe came a day after thousands of Kuwaitis braved scorching summer heat Saturday to attend the funerals of 18 victims.
“We want to deliver a message to ISIS that we are united brothers among the Sunnis and Shiites, and they cannot divide us,” said Abdel-Fattah al-Mutawwia, a Kuwaiti living in Iraq who lost his brother in the bombing.
Tens of thousands of people headed by the emir offered condolences late Saturday to relatives of victims at Kuwait’s Grand Mosque, the largest place of worship for Sunnis, in a show of solidarity.
Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister Yacoub al-Sane said additional security measures will be taken around mosques and places of worship.
Officials said the bombing was clearly meant to stir enmity between majority Sunnis and minority Shiites and harm the comparatively harmonious ties between the sects in Kuwait. Shiites are between 15 and 30 percent of the population of Kuwait, a country where members of both communities live side by side with little apparent friction.
Kuwaitis reacted with outrage to the bombing.
Some said citizens who fund Islamist armed groups fighting in Syria and Iraq were to blame for any militancy in Kuwait.
“The wrath of God will come upon ISIS and everyone who is supporting them and collecting funds for them under the cover of helping refugees and orphans