Drone attack by Yemen rebels sparks fire in Saudi oil field

Energy giant Saudi Aramco says attack caused 'limited fire' but no disruption or injuries.

    Saudi Arabia's Shaybah oil field, the target of a drone attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday [File: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]
    Saudi Arabia's Shaybah oil field, the target of a drone attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday [File: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

    A drone attack claimed by Yemen's Houthi rebels has sparked a fire in a remote Saudi oil and gas field but has caused no casualties or disruption to production, state-owned energy company Saudi Aramco said.

    "Saudi Aramco's response team controlled a limited fire this morning at the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility," the energy giant said on Saturday.

    "There were no injuries and no interruptions to Saudi Aramco's oil operations."

    A Houthi military spokesman said earlier on Saturday that the group targeted the Shaybah oil field with 10 drones in what he said was the "biggest attack in the depths" of the kingdom, the world's top oil exporter.

    The Houthis have carried out a spate of cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in recent months.

    Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the latest attack was carried out at 03:20 GMT by "booby-trapped drones". Saudi Arabia "staunchly condemns" the attack on Shaybah, a "vital facility", Falih said.

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    "This terrorist sabotage follows a series of actions, including attacks against oil tankers, and are aimed at disrupting international oil supplies," Falih said.

    "These acts are not only aimed at Saudi Arabia but also against the global economy," he added.

    Shaybah, which produces about a million barrels of crude oil a day, is located more than 1,000 kilometres from Houthi-controlled territory in northwestern Yemen.

    The field sits in the Arabian Peninsula's Empty Quarter, only a few kilometres from the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    On its website, Saudi Aramco refers to the field as "the most remote treasure on Earth," home to 14.3 billion barrels of oil reserves.

    The UAE is Saudi Arabia's main partner in the Sunni Arab coalition which has been battling the Houthis since 2015 to restore Yemen's pro-Saudi government driven from the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

    'Fiercer and larger attacks'

    A rebel spokesman, cited by the Houthi-run television station, Almasirah, on Saturday vowed "fiercer and larger attacks" against Saudi Arabia should it retaliate.

    "We promise the Saudi regime and the powers of aggression bigger and wider operations if the aggression continues," said the Houthi military spokesman, according to tweets by Almasirah TV.

    The war has been in military stalemate for years. The Houthis have stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months.

    War in Yemen: Houthis fire long-range missile to Saudi

    In May, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone attack on two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia that caused a small fire, but did not disrupt oil output or exports of crude and petroleum products.

    Falih called the latest attack a "terror and sabotage act" in line with previous targeting of Saudi pipelines and tankers in the Gulf.

    The Saudi minister was referring to attacks on oil tankers in May and June blamed by the US on Iran, which denied responsibility.

    The Saudi coalition has responded to the Houthi drone attacks with air strikes on the group's targets in Sanaa and other areas. Houthis control most urban centres in Yemen.

    The violence has complicated UN- led peace efforts to ease tensions between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia in order to pave the way for political talks to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

    Riyadh has accused Tehran of supplying the Houthis with missiles and drones used in the attacks on Saudi cities, a charge both Iran and the group reject.

    The Houthis say they manufacture their own weapons and are fighting a corrupt system.

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    SOURCE: News agencies