Houthi drones strike Saudi oil plants

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone attacks on a major Saudi oil site.
Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone attacks on a major Saudi oil site.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group has attacked two Saudi Aramco plants, including the world's biggest oil processing facility, sparking fires in the latest flare up of violence in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia said it had brought the blazes under control, without specifying whether oil production or exports were affected. State television said exports were continuing.

The drone strikes on the world's biggest oil exporter come as state oil giant Saudi Aramco has accelerated plans for an initial public offering to as early as this year, and follow earlier cross-border attacks on Saudi oil installations and on oil tankers in Gulf waters.

Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of Sunni Muslim countries that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, has blamed regional rival Shi'ite Iran for previous attacks, which Tehran denies. Riyadh accuses Iran of arming the Houthis, a charge denied by the group and Tehran.

The extent of damage from the drone strikes in Abqaiq and Khurais provinces remains unclear. Nine hours after the pre-dawn attacks, Aramco has issued no statement and the authorities have not reported on casualties.

Abqaiq is located 60km southwest of Aramco's Dhahran headquarters. It contains the world's largest oil processing plant, handling crude from the giant Ghawar field and for export to terminals Ras Tanura - the world's biggest offshore oil loading facility - and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

Khurais, 190 km further southwest, contains the country's second largest oilfield.

The US envoy to Saudi Arabia condemned the attacks as "unacceptable".

"The US strongly condemns today's drone attacks against oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais," the US mission quoted Ambassador John Abizaid as saying.

"These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost."

Australian Associated Press