DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Kuwait said Thursday it executed five prisoners, including an inmate convicted over the bombing of a Shiite mosque in 2015 that killed 27 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
The inmates were hanged at the Central Prison, Kuwait's Public Prosecution said in a statement. Prosecutors said the five include the man convicted in the mosque attack, Abdulrahman Sabah Idan, three people convicted of murder and a convicted drug dealer from Sri Lanka. One of the convicted murderers was Egyptian, another was Kuwaiti.
Idan, known as Saud, was a so-called Bidoon, a group largely made up of descendants of desert nomads considered stateless by the Kuwaiti government. During his trial, prosecutors described him as driving the Saudi suicide bomber to the Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City.
The 2015 bombing occurred during midday Friday prayers inside the mosque, one of Kuwait’s oldest for Shiites. The Islamic State group, which at the time controlled large areas in both Syria and Iraq, claimed the attack, which also wounded over 220 people. The Sunni extremist group views Shiites as apostates deserving of death.
It was the first militant attack in Kuwait in more than two decades. The attack was likely intended to foment unrest between Kuwait's Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations, but instead it was widely condemned and reawakened a sense of national solidarity not seen since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of the small, oil-rich country.
The extremist group no longer controls any territory following a grueling military campaign by an array of local and international forces, but continues to carry out sporadic attacks in Syria and Iraq. It also boasts affiliates in several Asian and African countries.
Kuwait's appeals and highest court upheld Idan's death sentence prior to his execution. Five other suspects received death sentences in absentia. They have yet to be captured.
Executions are relatively rare in Kuwait, which put seven inmates to death last November. Before that, the last mass execution was in 2017, when Kuwait executed seven prisoners, including a ruling family member.
The executions last November, which coincided with a visit by a European Commission official, drew condemnation from the European Union and human rights groups, derailing discussions around exempting Kuwaiti travelers from having to obtain EU visas. The 27-member bloc and many rights groups view the death penalty as a form of cruel and unusual punishment that should be abolished.
The EU said it “regrets” the five executions that took place Thursday.
“The European Union strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances,” the bloc said in a statement. “It is an inhumane punishment, which has been proven ineffective as a deterrent to crime and represents a denial of the fundamental right to life and human dignity.”
Kuwait and other Gulf nations are known to carry out executions for murder as well as nonviolent drug-related crimes. Saudi Arabia executed 61 people in the first half of this year, according to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, and 196 people in 2022, including 81 in one day.
Devin Kenney, a researcher for Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty worldwide, said the number of executions in the Gulf has been trending upwards and called for them to be halted.
“Killing people for killing people does not serve the purpose of preventing future killings or reducing the number of future killings,” Kenney said.