Oil facilities in Saudi Arabia hit by drone attacks

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Yesterday, oil facilities belonging to Saudi Arabia's state-owned Saudi Aramco were hit by multiple drone strikes in a pre-dawn raid. The attacks triggered major fires at a processing plant and an oil field, which state media said were under control. The Yemen-based Houthi movement claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Saudi Arabia (green) and Yemen (red) with the sites of the strikes indicated
Image: SVTCobra/TUBS.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the attacks occurred at 4:00 A.M. local time (0100 UTC) and struck the largest processing plant at Abqaiq and the Khurais oil field. The oil field is about 160 km (100 miles) east of the capital, Riyadh. The agency did not mention if there were casualties, but said exports were continuing.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reported both production and export of oil had been disrupted. Saudi officials subsequently said 5.7 million barrels of per-day production had been disrupted. This would be nearly half of Saudi Arabia's entire production and around five percent on a global basis.

Speaking on al-Masirah TV in Yemen, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said it had carried out the attack using ten drones. According to him, it was among the largest Houthi operations inside of Saudi Arabia and was accomplished with the help of "honourable people inside the kingdom".

"These attacks are our right, and we warn the Saudis that our targets will keep expanding", Saree said. "We have the right to strike back in retaliation to the air strikes and the targeting of our civilians for the last five years."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a message on Twitter blaming Iran for the attacks, saying there was "no evidence the attacks came from Yemen." BBC's Jonathan Marcus said questions remain how much direct Iranian assistance is received by the Houthis who are ideologically aligned with Iran.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia started supporting the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Houthi rebellion, providing airstrikes with the Royal Saudi Air Force. The United Nations called the resulting humanitarian crisis the worst in the world.

In 2006, Abqaiq was the target of an Al-Qaeda suicide attack.


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