The ex-wife of the groom at a Kuwait wedding, where a raging fire killed 43 women and children, has confessed to starting the blaze as an act of revenge, local newspapers reported on Monday.
Al-Qabas newspaper said the 23-year-old woman had told police she used petrol to torch a wedding tent packed with women and children to avenge her ex-husband’s “bad treatment” of her before their divorce.
Interior ministry spokesman Colonel Mohammad al-Saber told state-run Kuwait Television that Saturday’s fire -- which engulfed the tent in just minutes and triggered a panicked stampede -- was an act of arson.
“We have identified the perpetrator who confessed to committing the crime for personal reasons,” Saber said, without giving any further details.
Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah informed the weekly session of the council of ministers on Monday that the fire was an “act of arson” and that the perpetrator will be referred to court.
“‘Spurned´ woman unleashed fury,” was the headline in the English-language Kuwait Times newspaper, which said the bride escaped injured but that her mother and sister were killed.
Quoting unnamed security sources, Al-Qabas said the first wife’s Asian maid told police she saw her pouring petrol around the large women-only tent in the town of Jahra before the blaze started.
A total of 43 women and children have died and 90 other people were injured in the inferno, fire chief General Jassem al-Mansuri said, the deadliest civilian disaster in the modern history of the Gulf state.
Health Minister Helal al-Sayer said that 38 wounded women have been discharged after receiving the necessary treatment.
Of the 52 wounded still in hospital, at least five are in critical condition with extremely severe burns, the minister said, adding that some others have suffered moderate burns.
Last year, two women died and several others were wounded in a similar incident in Jahra which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital and has a population of around 500,000, most of them tribespeople.
Most wedding parties in the conservative Muslim Gulf state are segregated in line with local tradition.
Mansuri said on Sunday that most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and that forensic officials were working to identify the victims.
Thirty-one of the dead were buried on Sunday and Monday while forensics officials are still busy trying to establish the identities of the other victims. At least seven of the dead are children.
Specialised medical teams from Germany and Britain were scheduled to arrive on Monday to treat the injured.
The government of the oil-rich state has formed a high-level committee to investigate the incident amid sharp criticism by lawmakers that authorities were too slow in the rescue operations.
A number of MPs have demanded a probe into why authorities failed to apply strict safety and security rules for wedding tents.
The interior ministry has advised citizens against setting up tents in residential areas because that would obstruct rescue operations.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah expressed deep sympathy with the families of the victims and said he will not accept the usual greetings on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starting this weekend.
Several MPs have called on the government to declare a state of national mourning.