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Guards foil attack on Saudi site

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia – Suicide bombers in explosives-packed cars attacked the world’s largest oil processing facility Friday but were stopped outside the gates when guards opened fire, detonating their vehicles, officials said. Guards began shooting when two cars tried to drive into the heavily protected facility in eastern Saudi Arabia, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press. Both vehicles exploded outside the first of three fences around the sprawling complex. The attackers were killed and two guards were critically wounded, al-Turki said. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said the blast “did not affect operations” at the Abqaiq facility, but oil prices spiked on world markets already jittery about supply disruptions in Nigeria and a diplomatic standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Light sweet crude for April delivery soared to $62.83 a barrel, then eased back to $62.50, an increase of $1.96 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude futures for April jumped $1.81 to $62.35 on London’s ICE Futures exchange. The attack was the first on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia and it targeted one of the most important. The huge processing facility near the Persian Gulf coast handles around two-thirds of the country’s oil output, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. The concentration of oil processing at Abqaiq, about 25 miles inland from the Gulf coast, makes it a priority target for anyone seeking to cripple the Saudi oil industry. Without it, the kingdom would be unable to export much of its crude, which now amounts to about 11 percent of global consumption. A former CIA specialist on the Middle East, Robert Baer, described the complex as “the most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system.” A moderate to severe attack on Abqaiq would slow production “from an average of 6.8 million barrels a day to one million barrels,” a loss equivalent to one-third of the daily consumption of crude oil in the United States, Baer wrote in The Atlantic Monthly in May 2003. The facility “continued to operate normally. Export operations continued in full,” oil minister Ali Naimi said in a statement. Initial reports had said the attack briefly halted the flow of oil. The attack took place in a region where Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority is centered, amid an uproar over the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in Iraq this week. But suspicions quickly fell on al-Qaida-linked militants, raising fears of a new tactic emulating Iraqi insurgents, who have hobbled their country’s oil industry with sabotage and attacks. “In Iraq they zeroed in on oil and this appears to be a creeping process, since it is happening in Saudi Arabia,” said Youssef Ibrahim, a Dubai-based political risk analyst with the Strategic Energy Investment Group. Saudi Arabia has been waging a fierce three-year crackdown on al-Qaida militants, who launched a campaign in 2003 aimed at overthrowing the royal family with a string of attacks mostly targeting foreigners. Al-Naimi, the oil minister, said “security forces and Aramco security officials managed to thwart a terrorist attack.” He said the attack caused “a small fire” that was brought under control. The attack occurred around 3 p.m. local time, several hours after weekly prayers on a day off for Saudis. The facility operates around the clock, seven days a week. A Saudi journalist who arrived at the scene soon after an explosion said guards exchanged fire for two hours with two militants outside the facility. He also told The Associated Press that he saw workers repairing a pipeline. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite television reported that the attackers’ cars bore the logo of Aramco, the state oil company, which owns the facility. ———last_img read more