Military


Failaka Island

Failaka Island lies twenty kilometers east of Kuwait City, opposite the Bay of that name, and 50 kilometers from the southernmost tip of Iraq. It is one of the most important islands of Kuwait. Its area is approximately twenty-four square kilometers. It is triangular with its base in the west and head in the southeast It is fourteen kilometers in length, and its breadth varies between eight kilometers in the west, five in the middle, and two in the east. The island is flat, apart from a small hill thirty feet high in the extreme western part. It is linked to Kuwait City through a submarine pipeline that provides sweet water to the inhabitants of Failaka. Parallel to this are three submarine power cables that provide electricity. Failaka Island has its own source of water, but this was not sufficient as its population grew in the years prior to the Invasion, so a pipeline was laid from the mainland.

The Island of Failaka is one of the most beautiful and most famous islands of Kuwait. Pronounced "Failacha" in the local dialect, it combines the ancient history of Kuwait, dating back to the early Stone Age and the modern history of Kuwait. The home of Kuwait's main archaeological site, Failaka's history goes back to the Bronze Age Dilmun civilization, which was centerd in Bahrain. It may be assumed that there was at least inter-Gulf trade between 2200 and 1800 BC. The Greeks arrived in the 4th century BC in the form of a garrison sent by Nearchus, one of Alexander the Great's admirals. A small settlement existed on the island prior to this, but it was as the Greek town of Ikaros that the settlement became a real city. The Greeks lived on Failaka for two centuries. Failaka Island had a small Greek colony from 325 to 150 BC and was part of a maritime trade route in the Ptolomeic era. The remains of a temple can be found there today. Coins and seals found there point to Failaka remaining an important trading post with links to Iraq, Persia, the Mediterranean, the Levant, India and Africa. Its fresh water and strategic position favouring the Island's development.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 Iraqi forces expelled the civilian population and mined the beaches. After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in 1991, the Kuwaiti government resettled the island's population on on the mainland and compensated islanders for their property. The island has been cleared of mines, and it has been used for military exercises. Many Kuwaitis fish there and some former residents visit occasionally, but special permits are required.

One US Marine was killed and another wounded in a terrorist incident that occurred during training exercises in Kuwait. Two men, civilians of Kuwaiti nationality, approached a group of Marines during the exercise and opened fire. The Marines responded, killing both attackers. The attack took part as US and Kuwaiti forces were conducting a month-long exercise involving air, amphibious, ground and naval units. It is part of a training arrangement in place since the 1991 Gulf War.



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