Saudi Arabia: Drones attack Riyadh oil facility; no damage

Dubai: A drone attack struck an oil installation in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh on Friday, the Saudi state-run news agency reported, igniting a blaze at the facility deep in the kingdom’s territory.

The dawn attack caused no injuries or damage, and did not disrupt oil supplies, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The kingdom is facing more frequent airborne assaults as Saudi-led coalition forces battle Iran-backed Houthi rebels across the southern border in Yemen. 

Most recently, drones struck Ras Tanura, the country’s largest crude oil refinery with capacity of 550,000 barrels a day, raising concerns about the expanding capabilities of Saudi Arabia’s regional foes. 

Details about Friday’s attack remained slim, and authorities did not name the impacted facility. Aramco, the kingdom’s oil giant, does have a refinery just southeast of Riyadh. That refinery produces gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products for consumption around the kingdom’s capital. 

Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company that now has a sliver of its worth traded publicly on the stock market, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The international crude benchmark, Brent, rose to over USD 62 a barrel. Aramco stock fell 0.85 per cent Friday on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange.

The Saudi statement did not blame the Houthis for Friday’s attack. But a few hours earlier, Houthi military spokesman Brig Gen Yehia Sarie reported the group had fired six drones at an unnamed Aramco facility in Riyadh, without providing evidence for what he described as a high-accuracy hit.” Riyadh lies some 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) from Yemen’s soil, but the rebels have fired drones and missiles at the Saudi capital before. 

While Houthi-claimed attacks on Saudi Arabia rarely cause damage, strikes on major oil facilities in the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, raise the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies. In the fall of 2019, a drone and missile attack struck two key Saudi oil installations and halted about half of the country’s oil supplies. Although the Houthis claimed responsibility, both Washington and Riyadh blamed Tehran for the attack. Iran denied involvement.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015, months after the rebels swept into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and seized much of the country’s north. Now mired in stalemate, the war has killed about 130,000 people including more than 12,000 civilians and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism for its airstrikes that have killed civilians and hit non-military targets in Yemen.