Al-Qaeda renews threat to hit Saudi oil



 

 

 

By Mark Huband in London

Financial Times, 20 December 2004

Militants linked to al-Qaeda yesterday renewed a threat to attack Saudi oil supplies, in a defiant challenge to the intense security put in place to defend the kingdom’s production facilities.

Security experts said yesterday’s statement from the “Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula” built on a threat issued on Friday by Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader.

He called for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer. Crude futures on Nymex rose almost 5 per cent to $46.28 a barrel on Friday, partly in response to the statement.

Yesterday’s threat, dated December 18 and issued on an Islamic website, said: “We call on all the mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula to unify their ranks . . . and target the oil supplies that do not serve the Islamic nation but the enemies of this nation.”

The statement also urged militants to strike at “all foreign targets, until the Arabian Peninsula is free of these infidels and the tyrants”.

Security officials have identified Saudi oil installations as likely targets for the terrorist network ever since a wave of attacks began in the kingdom in May 2003. However, widespread arrests and improvements in thwarting attacks are seen as having weakened the extremists’ ability to cause damage. Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company that oversees production, issued a statement after Mr bin Laden’s threat last week. It stressed that oilfields and refineries were guarded by “multiple levels of armed Saudi Aramco security personnel working in close co-ordination with Saudi government security forces”.

Since militants linked to al-Qaeda began attacks in Saudi Arabia last year, the petrochemical centre of Yanbu and the oil industry hub of al-Khobar have been targeted.

But these attacks have been against so-called “soft targets” such as foreign civilians, rather than industrial installations.

Saudi security officials say they are aware that threats to installations are as likely to come from extremists who have infiltrated the sites as employees, as from attackers who try to break through perimeter security. They insist that counter-terrorism strategies are being developed that can deal with threats from either source.

The two statements threatening Saudi oil facilities come at a time of mounting concern about supply. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries said last week it would take 1m barrels per day off the market starting in January. A rise in the price of oil was also triggered by cold weather in the northern hemisphere, which coincided with low heating-fuel stocks in the US, where crude stocks are at a three-month low, according to industry figures.

 

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