oil pipes 298.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Al-Qaida purportedly claimed responsibility for Friday's suicide bombing attempt on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia and warned that the group would attack more Saudi oil facilities, the terror group purportedly threatened Saturday in an Internet statement that claimed responsibility for the foiled attack on the Abiqaiq plant in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Two suicide bombers tried to drive cars packed with explosives into Abiqaiq, the world's largest oil processing facility, on Friday afternoon, but security guards opened fire and the vehicles exploded outside the gates, killing the bombers and fatally wounding two guards.
The guards died in hospital, the Interior Ministry said Saturday in a statement published on the Web site of the official Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi quickly said the attack "did not affect operations" and that exports continued to flow. But the blast made the price of crude oil jump by more than US $2 a barrel on the world markets.
"This operation is part of a series of operations that al-Qaida is carrying out against the crusaders and the Jews to stop their plundering of Muslim wealth," said a statement posted on a militant Web site in the name of "al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula," as the Saudi branch of the terror network calls itself.
The statement did not acknowledge that the attack was foiled. In fact, it claimed that the two "heroic holy warriors" managed to enter Abiqaiq.
"There are more like them who are racing toward martyrdom and eager to fight the enemies of god, the Jews, the crusaders and their stooges, the renegade rulers" of Arab countries, the posting said.
"You will see things that will make you happy, god willing," concluded the statement.
Al-Qaida had long threatened to attack Saudi Arabia's oil plants, but Friday's was the first time it actually attempted to do so. Previously militants linked to al-Qaida had killed foreigners working in the industry, but not at oil facilities.
Friday's assault suggested the terrorists were adopting the tactics of insurgents in neighboring Iraq, who have repeatedly targeted the oil industry.
In late 2004, Osama bin Laden released a video in which he called for attacks on oil facilities to hurt the West.
The posting said Friday's attack was dubbed "Operation Bin Laden Conquest."
It was the first attack on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, and it targeted one of the kingdom's most important. The huge Abqaiq processing facility near the Gulf coast handles around two-thirds of the country's oil output, according to the US Department of Energy's Energy Intelligence Agency.
Saudi Arabia has been waging a fierce three-year crackdown on al-Qaida terrorists, who launched a campaign in 2003 aimed at overthrowing the royal family with a string of attacks, mostly targeting foreigners. In May 2004, terrorists attacked oil company offices in two cities.
The attack occurred when two cars tried to drive through the gates of the heavily secured facility, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press.
Guards opened fire on the cars, and both vehicles exploded, al-Turki said. He said two guards were critically wounded.
But there were varying reports on the details. A Saudi journalist who arrived at the scene soon after the explosion said only one car exploded and that the guards killed two people in a second car before it blew up.
Guards then battled for two hours with two other militants outside the facility, the reported told AP. He said he saw workers repairing a pipeline.
Al-Naimi, the oil minister, said "security forces and Aramco security officials managed to thwart a terrorist attack against" the installation. He said the attack caused "a small fire" but it was brought under control and did not affect operations.
The attack came in a largely Shiite area amid an uproar over the bombing earlier this week against a major Shiite shrine in Iraq.
But suspicions in the Abqaiq attack quickly fell on al-Qaida-linked terrorists. The attack came despite a string of victories for Saudi security forces in their fight against al-Qaida's branch in the kingdom.
It raised fears militants adopted a new tactic, trying to emulate Iraqi insurgents, who have succeeded in hobbling that country's oil industry with sabotage and attacks, said Dubai-based political risk analyst Youssef Ibrahim of the Strategic Energy Investment Group.
"In Iraq they zeroed in on oil and this appears to be a creeping process, since it is happening in Saudi Arabia," Ibrahim said.
With over 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a quarter of the world's total, Saudi Arabia is the top foreign supplier to the United States and is the main source of liquidity in the world market.
Saudi Arabia maintains crude oil production capacity of around 10.5-11.0 million barrels a day, and claims that it is "easily capable" of producing up to 15 million bbl/d in the future and maintaining
The Abqaiq facility processes about 5-7 million barrels a day. Of this production, 93% is for export, so it is loaded directly into ocean-going tankers, the remainder being used for local consumption.