Six people are to go on trial suspected of planning attacks on a Kuwaiti port project in the Gulf that is disputed by Iraq, a judiciary official said on Wednesday.
“The police have arrested six people accused of preparing an attack on Mubarak port,” said a spokesman for the court of appeal in Nasiriyah, 305 kilometres (190 miles) south of Baghdad.
Baghdad claims the Mubarak al-Kabir project, once completed, would strangle its shipping lanes in the narrow Khor Abdullah waterway that serves as its entrance to the Gulf, through which the vast majority of its oil exports flow.
Kuwait insists the port will not affect Iraq.
The court spokesman said the six detainees “all deny the charges, but a witness has confirmed that they were implicated in preparing to attack the port.”
The six, from Nasiriyah and the port of Basra farther south, have been referred to a criminal court for trial, he added.
It was not known if the suspects were members of a particular group, and there was no trial date given.
Kuwait began construction on the container port in 2007 but Baghdad only raised objections to it last May, a month after Kuwait’s emir laid the foundation stone.
An Iraqi Shiite militant group, Ketaeb Hezbollah, in July threatened to target firms working on the port project.
“The Iraqi people will not forget what the government of Kuwait is doing by building a port to strangle Iraq economically,” said a statement posted on the group’s website.
The $1.1 billion (835,000-million-euro) facility on Kuwait’s Bubiyan Island is scheduled for completion in 2016.