SAEED HAIDER – Explosive-laden drones attacked Saudi Arabian Oil Company’s (Saudi Aramco) oil facilities near Riyadh Tuesday causing closure of the pipeline as a precautionary measure.
A statement issued by the company at its headquarters in Dhahran said there were no fatalities or injuries. The statement said “the company quickly responded to a fire at East West Pipeline Pump station 8 which was caused by a sabotage incident using armed drones which targeted pump stations 8 and 9.”
“As a precautionary measure, the Company temporarily shut down the pipeline, and contained the fire which caused minor damage to pump station 8. Saudi Aramco confirms that no injuries or fatalities have been reported. Saudi Aramco’s oil and gas supplies have not been impacted as a result of this incident”, the statement said.
This was confirmed by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih who said the attack on two oil pumping stations had not disrupted oil production or exports of crude and petroleum products.
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Saudi Aramco added that Saudi oil and gas supplies to its clients have not been affected by the attacks.
The drone attack on pump stations came two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Al-Falih said the two recent attacks threatened global oil supplies and proved the need to counter “terrorist groups behind such destructive acts” including the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen.
Tuesday’s attack and the operation against commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE on Sunday took place as the United States and Iran exchanged angry words over sanctions and the US military presence in the region.
Iran was a prime suspect in the sabotage on Sunday although Washington had no conclusive proof, a US official familiar with American intelligence said on Monday.
Agencies quoted the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Washington should take what he called “reasonable responses short of war” after it had determined who was behind the attacks near Fujairah.
“We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war,” newly arrived US Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in Riyadh.
“It’s not in (Iran’s) interest, it’s not in our interest, it’s not in Saudi Arabia’s interest to have a conflict,” he said.
There had been an all-round condemnation of the targeted sabotage of four commercial vessels — two from Saudi Arabia and one each from United Arab Emirates and Norway — off the coast of Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia said the attack was aimed to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.
Energy Minister Al-Falih had emphasized the joint responsibility of the international community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, as these incidents pose a danger to energy markets and the global economy. The vessels were “significantly damaged” in the attack.
The oil tankers, which were on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf. One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco customers in the US.
“Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill,” the minister disclosed.
Defense analysts and oil market pundits say that the Tuesday attack on Saudi Aramco facility as well as attacks on oil tankers reflect a well organized evil intents of the terrorists who planned and executed those operations putting the safety of navigation in the region to a great jeopardy and threatening the lives of civil crews working on sea vessels.
Security around all facilities at headquarters as well as at other facilities around the Kingdom has been intensified.