Faylaka Island attack

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Faylaka Island attack
Map of Kuwait Failaka (lithuanian).png
A Lithuanian map of Faylaka Island, in relation to mainland Kuwait and neighboring countries.
Location Faylaka Island, Kuwait
Date October 8, 2002; 14 years ago (2002-10-08)
11:00 a.m. (UTC+03:00)
Target U.S. Marines on a training exercise
Attack type
Motorized small arms assault
Weapons Kalashnikov rifles, pickup truck
Deaths 3 (including two attackers)
Non-fatal injuries
1 U.S. Marine wounded (WIA)
Victims 1 U.S. Marine killed 
Perpetrators Anas Al Kandari and Jassem al-Hajiri 
Assailants 2 armed gunmen
Motive Jihadism and anti-Americanism

On October 8, 2002 two Kuwaiti citizens with ties to jihadists in Afghanistan attacked a group of unarmed United States Marines conducting a training exercise on Faylaka Island, killing one of them before being killed themselves by armed sentries. The attackers were reported to have served as volunteers with the Taliban, in Afghanistan, prior to the U.S. invasion of the country in response to the September 11 attacks of 2001.

The Marines were on a training exercise on Faylaka Island, an island off the coast of Kuwait. One U.S. Marine was killed and another was seriously injured. The two Kuwaiti attackers were also killed themselves after U.S. Marines returned fire in self-defense. The Marines' rifles were loaded with blank rounds for the training exercise, but they were able to engage their Kuwaiti attackers with their pistols. Prior to the Persian Gulf War of 1991 the island was a resort, but in 2002 the war damage had not been repaired.


In October 2002, an element of approximately 150 U.S. Marines from India Company and Lima Company of Battalion Landing Team,[1] 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment,[2][1] 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit[3][1] were on Faylaka Island as part of Eager Mace, a joint annual U.S. and Kuwaiti amphibious assault military training exercise. Eager Mace had begun the previous month and had 2,000 U.S. Marines participating in it in total.[4] For the part of the exercise that took place on Faylaka Island, it was conducted by U.S. forces only.[4]

Faylaka Island was a small island belonging to Kuwait, located in the Kuwait Bay off the eastern coastline of mainland Kuwait proper. During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, forces of the Iraqi Army had invaded and occupied the island, severely damaging it in the process.[5] More than 11 years later, a lot of the damage had not been repaired and some buildings still had graffiti painted on them from the war.[5]

The Marines on Faylaka had left southern California's Camp Pendleton in June 2002 and had arrived in Kuwait via the navy warship USS Denver (LPD-9) after making port calls in several different foreign countries.[1] In addition to the usual training duties that were part of the scheduled exercise, the Marines were also practicing for a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq amid United Nations deliberations over an alleged Iraqi regime chemical weapons program, deliberations which, if proved unfruitful, would almost certainly mean said invasion would occur.

Aside from the Marines, there was a small civilian caretaker presence on the island consisting of Kuwaiti citizens, as well as a few shop owners,[6] which surprised the Marines a little bit as they were under the impression that the island was deserted.[1] Nevertheless, the Marines felt very safe and secure on the island as Kuwait was an ostensibly U.S.-allied country,[1] the Kuwaiti government told them it was safe,[1] and there was a small contingent of Kuwaiti police there as well.[1] In addition, the Kuwaiti civilians with whom the Marines interacted with were friendly and were ostensibly glad to have U.S. military forces in their country.[1]

The attack[edit]

On October 7, two Kuwaiti men, Anas Al Kandari and Jassem al-Hajiri, sat in a small white-with-red stripes Nissan pickup truck that they had rented and reconnoitered the Marines training from a distance. They had spent some time at a local mosque a few days before and had reconnoitered the Marines the day prior as well. The two men were Jihadis who had received terrorist training in Afghanistan.

The following day, October 8, was a hot and sunny day on the island. At approximately, 11:00 a.m. local time, some Marines were taking a break from official duties and resting at a beach-side campsite during a lull in the training. They thus not have live ammunition with their rifles for training purposes, although a few commissioned officers and senior NCOs carried Beretta M9 sidearms loaded with live ammunition.[7][8] Soon thereafter, the two gunmen began shooting at the Marines with Kalashnikov rifles,[7][9][10] specifically targeting two Marines playing a makeshift game of baseball during a rest in the training. One nearby Marine became disgruntled after hearing the gunfire, mistaking it for that of his fellow Marines, but soon realized otherwise.[6]

The gunfire by the two assailants struck the two baseball-playing Marines as well as a tent and dozens of cases of soft drinks. After shooting at the Marines initially, reports state the men then drove to another location and then shot again. According to one account, a Marine sentry returned fire with an M16A2 rifle and another Marine returned fire with a sidearm, with the former's gunfire disabling the truck. The two Kuwaiti gunmen were shot, with one of them exiting the vehicle on the passenger side with several gunshot wounds. The senior-most enlisted Marine on the island, First Sergeant Timothy Ruff, then shot the gunman several more times, killing him. Ruff and another Marine, First Sergeant Wayne A. Hertz, then extracted the driver of the truck from out of the vehicle. That gunman also died.[7][8] Before the second gunman died, the Marines walked up to his body and stood over him. Surrounded by U.S. Marines, the mortally-wounded gunman laid dying on the ground and muttered a few phrases in Arabic before finally expiring.

Radio operator Lance Corporal George R. Simpson, Jr.,[11][12] a 21-year-old Ohioan, was shot in the arm and Lance Corporal Antonio J. "Tony" Sledd,[13][14] a 20-year-old Floridian,[15][16] was shot in the chin and abdomen. An avid baseball fan from Florida's Hillsborough County, Sledd was playing an impromptu baseball game with Lance Corporal Simpson when the former was shot by one of the black-bearded gunmen at point-blank range in the back.[1]

Within ten minutes, a U.S. Army UH-60 medical helicopter arrived and flew the two wounded Marines to the mainland for treatment at an army hospital on the mainland in Kuwait City. Sledd was reportedly in good spirits when he was taken away by the helicopter, but he was ultimately mortally wounded and subsequently died. However, Simpson manage to survive his wounds and was awarded the Purple Heart Medal later that month by a general.[12]

After al-Kandari and al-Haijiri were killed by the Marines, reports indicate that the Marines then took incoming gunfire from a nearby fishing village, with some of them jumping into the water to avoid being shot, as cover was scarce on a sandy beach. A CH-47 helicopter arrived and distributed ammunition to the Marines, who then went into the town to fight the village-based attackers.[17] Eight hours later, the Marines concluded and left.[17]


Antonio J. "Tony" Sledd (left), the sole U.S. Marine killed in the attack.

After the attack the Marines locked down the area and 31 civilians were detained for investigation, including two medical students suspected of being linked to gunman al-Kandari.[8][18][19][20][7] Local Kuwaitis who knew the two gunmen personally considered them to be martyrs after the attack.

The exercise the Marines were a part of, Eager Mace, was originally intended to last three weeks.[4] However, it was cancelled prematurely after the attack.[4]

In an unrelated incident, three U.S. Marines were injured in an explosion a couple of days later on October 10 in Udairi, Kuwait.[21]

Though the Iraq War itself would not begin until a few months later in March of the following year, Sledd is considered by some[22][23] to be the first U.S. combat casualty of the war, as he was killed by hostile fire while training for its commencement. His death became a rallying cry for some of the Marines who knew him, who said, "Remember how and why Sledd died!"[24] Sledd was posthumously advanced to the rate of corporal. Eight days after the attack, the U.S. government passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, which legally cleared the way for the U.S. to invade Iraq, which it in March did the following year.[25]

In mid-2015, one of the suspects connected with the attack was killed by the U.S. government, using a UAV airstrike.[26][27][22]

Guantanamo captives alleged to have an association with the Faylaka Island attack[edit]

A number of the captives held in extrajudicial detention in Guantanamo had their continued detention justified, in part, through a friendship or family relationship with the two attackers.

Guantanamo captives alleged to have an association with the Faylaka Island attack
ISN Name Nationality Alleged association
196 Musa Bin Ali Bin Said al Amri Saudi Arabian
  • One of detainee's aliases was in another hard drive believed to belong to members of the suspected al Qaida cell involved with the October 2002 attack on US Marines in Faylaka Island.[28][29]
  • The detainee's name was listed on a computer seized from members of the suspected al Qaida cell involved in the October 2002 attack on United States Marines on Faylaka Island.[30]
226 Anwar al Nurr Saudi Arabian
  • The detainee's name and other information was found in a 2 September 2002 "chat session" found on the hard drive of a computer confiscated from members of the suspected al Qaida cell involved in the October 2002 attack on U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island.[31]
  • The detainee's name was discovered as part of information that was recovered from hard drives, which were seized from the suspected al Qaida cell that attacked the United States Marines on Faylaka Island in October 2002.


234 Khalid Mohammed al Zaharni Saudi Arabian
  • The detainee's name was found under a chat session on a computer hard drive seized from the suspected al Qaida cell that attacked the U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in October 2002.[34]
568 Adil Zamil Abdull Mohssin Al Zamil Kuwaiti
  • The detainee was invited to the house of a man involved in the October 2002 attack on U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island, Kuwait.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bell 2005, p. 178.
  2. ^ Folsom 2006, p. 26.
  3. ^ Nordland 2002, p. lxxi.
  4. ^ a b c d Global Security 2003, p. 1.
  5. ^ a b Bell 2005, p. 177.
  6. ^ a b Kasal & Helms 2007, pp. 88-89.
  7. ^ a b c d Schmitt 2002, p. A13.
  8. ^ a b c Dakss 2002a, p. 1.
  9. ^ Bell 2005, pp. 177-179.
  10. ^ Moniz 2002, p. 1.
  11. ^ Jones 2006, p. 3.
  12. ^ a b Marines Magazine 2002, p. 1.
  13. ^ N 2005, p. 1.
  14. ^ Rhem 2002, p. 1.
  15. ^ Military Times 2016, p. 1.
  16. ^ Rivera 2003, p. 1.
  17. ^ a b O'Donnell 2007, p. 24.
  18. ^ Banco 2014, p. 1.
  19. ^ University of St Andrews 2014, p. 1.
  20. ^ Fouad 2002, p. 1.
  21. ^ Dakss 2002b, p. 1.
  22. ^ a b Katz 2015, p. 1.
  23. ^ Lowry 2010, pp. 35-36.
  24. ^ O'Donnell 2007, p. 27.
  25. ^ United States Congress 2002, p. 1.
  26. ^ Perry 2015, p. 1.
  27. ^ Thompson 2015, p. 1.
  28. ^ OARDEC 2004a, p. 8.
  29. ^ OARDEC 2005a, pp. 69-71.
  30. ^ OARDEC 2006a, pp. 1-3.
  31. ^ OARDEC 2004b, pp. 47-48.
  32. ^ OARDEC 2005c, pp. 70-72.
  33. ^ OARDEC 2006c, pp. 49-51.
  34. ^ OARDEC 2006b, p. 1.
  35. ^ OARDEC 2005b, pp. 42-44.