February 25, 2006

Al Qaeda vows more attacks after Saudi oil raid

By Souhail Karam

ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia
vowed more attacks after an attempted assault on the world's
largest oil processing plant ended in a massive explosion at
the site's gates, a Web site statement said.

The statement issued on Saturday named two suicide
attackers who died in the blast as Mohammed al-Ghaith and
Abdullah al-Tweijri -- both on a list of top wanted militants.

The statement said Friday's attack was in response to a
call by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to target oil

"We shall not cease our attacks until our territories are
liberated," said the statement, adding the operation was
successful and that some attackers got away.

It said the attackers got through two gates and blew up
themselves and their vehicles as planned, rejecting Saudi state
media reports that security forces stopped them.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil and gas output was
unaffected by the "terrorist attempt" on the world's biggest
oil processing plant -- the first direct strike on a Saudi
energy target since al Qaeda launched attacks aimed at toppling
the U.S.-allied monarchy in 2003.

The statement, signed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,
said: "We renew our vow to crush the forces of the crusaders
and the tyrants and to stop the theft of the wealth of the

The authenticity of the statement, posted on a Web site
often used by Islamist groups in Iraq, could not be verified.

Oil prices jumped $2 a barrel on news of the attack in the
world's largest oil exporter, which came a year after bin Laden
urged his supporters to hit Gulf oil targets.


Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces
fired on three cars at the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility,
1.5 km (one mile) from the main entrance.

One car carrying gunmen and two others, packed with
explosives, rammed the gates, he said. Security sources said
four militants and two officers died.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television said the attackers used
cars bearing the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

The U.S. ambassador in Riyadh praised Saudi security forces
for foiling the attack.

"The Saudi government and Saudi Aramco deserve considerable
credit for what they have done in recent years to enhance the
security of oil facilities throughout the kingdom," James C.
Oberwetter said in a statement on the embassy Web site.

"I know first hand the robust security systems that are in
place there. When they were needed, those systems worked, and
the facility at Abqaiq was fully protected."

It was the first major strike by militants opposed to the
Saudi royals since suicide bombers tried to storm the Interior
Ministry in Riyadh in December 2004. A most wanted list issued
by Saudi authorities in June gave Ghaith's age as 23 and said
Tweijri was 21 years old.

Mohammad al-Merri, a relative of one of the officers
killed, said the militants were able to penetrate the first
checkpoint leading to the facility.

"They opened fire and killed two officers after the guards
at the second checkpoint became suspicious of them," he told
Reuters in Abqaiq.

Residents said they heard the blast from about two km (more
than a mile) away, then saw smoke rising from the site.

Naimi said a small fire that broke out after the explosion
was brought under control.

"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

Officials say about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including
security forces, and 120 militants have died in attacks and
clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide
bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.