February 24, 2006

Suicide bombers attack Saudi oil facility

DUBAI (Reuters) - An explosion rocked Saudi Arabia's huge
Abqaiq oil facility in the east of the kingdom on Friday and an
official said Saudi forces had thwarted suicide bomb attacks
against the world's biggest oil exporter.

Oil jumped more than $2 a barrel. Al Qaeda leaders have
previously called for attacks on oil fields in Saudi Arabia, a
key U.S. ally.

A security source said suicide bombers had tried to storm
the facility in the mainly Shi'ite province, known locally as
Baqiq, and site of one of Saudi Arabia's main oilfields.

"Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the
Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars," the official said.

Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya said Saudi forces
killed the attackers. It quoted witnesses saying there was

Al Arabiya said the cars used by the attackers had the logo
of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco on them and that one
car exploded at the gate to one refinery mid-afternoon.

Al Arabiya said a fire at a pipeline from the blast was now
under control.

It was not clear if there was any impact on output from the
world's top oil producer and a close U.S. ally.

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via the huge
Abqaiq producing, pumping and processing facility. The world's
biggest processing plant, it handles about two-thirds of the
country's output.

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."