Saudi Arabia thwarts attack on oil facility in southern province

Security forces intercepted and destroyed two explosives-packed boats that Yemen’s Houthi rebels were using to target a major refinery and terminal in the southern Saudi province of Jazan.
Friday 13/11/2020
A 2015 file picture shows Saudi soldiers standing guard from behind a sandbag barricade at the Saudi border with Yemen in Jazan. (AP)
A 2015 file picture shows Saudi soldiers standing guard from behind a sandbag barricade at the Saudi border with Yemen in Jazan. (AP)

RIYADH – Saudi Arabia said early Friday it thwarted an attack by Yemen’s Iran-backed militias that sparked a fire near an Aramco oil distribution centre, involving unmanned boats loaded with explosives dispatched into the Red Sea.

In remarks carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, an unnamed official at the Saudi energy ministry reported that his country’s security forces had intercepted and destroyed two explosives-packed boats that it said Yemen’s Houthi rebels were using to target a major refinery and terminal in the southern Saudi province of Jazan.

The attempted attack took place late Wednesday near an offloading platform and caused the floating hoses that unload oil to catch fire, according to the energy official, who added that the blaze had been brought under control and caused no injuries.

“Such criminal acts directed against vital facilities do not target the kingdom alone, but they also target the security of oil exports, the stability of energy supplies to the world, the freedom of international trade, and the entire global economy,” the Saudi energy ministry said in a statement.

The official sharply condemned the attack as threatening commercial shipping routes near the vital Bab al-Mandeb strait, used for oil shipments from the Gulf to Europe, as well as goods from Asia to Europe.

There was no immediate acknowledgement from Iran-backed Yemen’s militias, who have repeatedly fired drones and missiles targeting oil installations, airports and cities in the Saudi mainland over the course of a grinding five-year war against a Saudi-led military coalition.

In September 2019, drone attacks claimed by the Houthis struck two key oil installations in Saudi Arabia, halting about half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil. Saudi Arabia and the US attributed the assault to Iran, which has denied involvement.

Yemen has been locked in conflict since 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthis seized Sana’a, the capital, and then much of the country’s north.

Fighting escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition intervened to restore the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.