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Saudis Stop Terrorist Attack On Biggest Refinery

From Saudi-owned Reuters:

Saudis foil attack on oil facility

By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH (Reuters) – At least two cars exploded at the gates of Saudi Arabia's huge Abqaiq oil facility on Friday when security forces fired on suicide bombers trying to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant, Saudi officials said.

Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil and gas output was unaffected by the "terrorist attempt" — the first direct strike on a Saudi oil target since al Qaeda militants launched attacks aimed at toppling Saudi Arabia's pro-Western monarchy in 2003.

"Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars," an official said.

Oil prices jumped $2 a barrel on news of the attack in the world's largest oil exporter, which came a year after Saudi-born Osama bin Laden urged his supporters to hit Gulf oil targets.

Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces fired on three cars packed with explosives as they rammed the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility, one mile from the main entrance.

"Three cars rammed the first of the three sets of gates protecting Abqaiq and when security shot at them all three cars exploded," Obaid said.

Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya said the attackers had been killed. It added the cars they used had the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

Oil minister Naimi, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, said a small fire was quickly brought under control after the incident which he said took place at 3.10 p.m. (1210 GMT).

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via the huge producing, pumping and processing facility at Abqaiq, also known locally as Baqiq, in the mainly Shi'ite Eastern Province.


Friday's attack was the first major strike by militants in Saudi Arabia since suicide bombers tried to storm the Interior Ministry in Riyadh in December 2004.

The prospect of a direct attack on Saudi crude facilities has been a doomsday scenario for oil consumer nations heavily reliant on Saudi oil. The kingdom accounts for around a sixth of the world's oil exports, supplying 7.5 million barrels a day.

Former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer has described Abqaiq as "the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system."

Abqaiq handles crude pumped from the giant Ghawar field and ships it off to terminals Ras Tanura — the world's biggest offshore oil loading facility — and Juaymah. It also pumps oil westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

"It's not clear what damage there is but Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York.

"This just emphasizes fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq."

Officials say around 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and 120 militants have died in militant attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers struck at three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

The next year militants bombed a Saudi security building in the capital, killed Western engineers in the Red Sea city of Yanbu, and attacked oil company and housing compounds in the Gulf city of Khobar.

Saudi officials say they have killed the most dangerous al Qaeda leaders in the country and broken the back of their insurgency, but that al Qaeda will remain a threat in the kingdom for years.

"There had been concern that even though their capabilities had diminished they still had the intent to launch attacks in the kingdom," a U.S. counter-terrorism official said.

It's nice of Reuters to point out what a spectacular target this is.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, February 24th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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