Oil refinery attack foiled, Saudis say
Vehicles reportedly were packed with explosives; pipeline fire started

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 9:34 a.m. ET Feb. 24, 2006

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Suicide bombers tried but failed to storm a major oil refinery in Saudi Arabia on Friday, according to officials and TV reports.

“Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars,” a security official told Reuters.

Al-Arabiya television said Saudi forces killed the attackers.

The attackers did apparently start a pipeline fire that was later brought under control, the TV station said. That briefly stopped oil flowing through the facility, Al-Arabiya said.

A source with oil producer Saudi Aramco told Al-Arabiya that no buildings or stations inside the refinery were damaged.

Earlier, an Al-Arabiya reporter said shots and an explosion had been heard at the refinery.

Vehicles had company logos
Al-Arabiya reported that one bomb-laden vehicle was detonated by gunfire from security guards as it tried to drive into the refinery.

The vehicles used by the attackers reportedly had the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco on them.

The al-Qaida terror group has called for attacks on Saudi oil installations.

It was the first such attack on an oil facility in the kingdom, which has waged a fierce three-year crackdown on al-Qaida militants. There have been previous attacks on oil company offices, but not on a facility where oil is present.

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via the huge processing facility, which handles about two-thirds of the country’s output. The facilities include processing and pumping stations that send oil to major Saudi export terminals.

‘World’s most important oil facility’
It was not clear if there was any impact on output from the world’s largest oil producer and a close U.S. ally.

Former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer has described Abqaiq as "the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system."

"It's not clear what damage there is but Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York. "This just emphasizes fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq."