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Saudi Arabia says oil facilities near Riyadh attacked following sabotage of tankers off UAE

14 May 2019

Saudi Arabia said explosive-laden drones had struck oil pumping stations in the Riyadh region on May 14 in what it called an act of terrorism two days after Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Saudi state media reported Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih saying the two recent attacks threatened global oil supplies and proved the need to counter terrorist groups. 

USS Abraham Lincoln - Image: US DOD
USS Abraham Lincoln - Image: US DOD

He said the attack on two oil pumping stations had not disrupted oil production or exports of crude and petroleum products. 

A Saudi-led military coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen for four years and Houthi media claimed they had launched drone attacks on vital Saudi installations. 

The drone attack follows damage to four oil tankers anchored off the UAE state of Fujairah on May 12. Images from news agencies show holes on the waterlines of the vessels, thought to have been caused by explosives. One of the tankers is surrounded by a boom, seemingly to contain leaking oil.

Two of the tankers are from Saudi Arabia, one is Norwegian and the other is Emirati. Al-Falih said the attacks on the two Saudi tankers did not lead to any casualties or oil spills.

Iran, which supports the Houthi rebellion, was a prime suspect behind the sabotage of the vessels, although there has so far been no conclusive proof. The country has denied involvement and described the attack on the four commercial vessels as “worrisome and dreadful”. It called for an investigation.

The US Administration recently warned that Iran could target US and other country’s commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf. A fifth of global oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The US has recently pulled out of a nuclear pact with Iran and has imposed stringent sanctions on the country’s oil exports. In retaliation, Iran threatened last month to close the Hormuz chokepoint.

US President Donald Trump wants to force Tehran to agree a broader arms control accord and has sent the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what US officials have said are threats to US troops in the region.

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