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Al Qaeda vows more attacks after Saudi oil raid

Written by: Staff
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ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia, Feb 26 (Reuters) Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia vowed more attacks after an attempted assault on the world's largest oil processing plant ended in a massive explosion at the site's gates, a Web site statement said.

The statement issued yesterday named two suicide attackers who died in the blast as Mohammed al-Ghaith and Abdullah al-Tweijri -- both on a list of top wanted militants.

The statement said Friday's attack was in response to a call by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to target oil installations.

''We shall not cease our attacks until our territories are liberated,'' said the statement, adding the operation was successful and that some attackers got away.

It said the attackers got through two gates and blew up themselves and their vehicles as planned, rejecting Saudi state media reports that security forces stopped them.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil and gas output was unaffected by the ''terrorist attempt'' on the world's biggest oil processing plant -- the first direct strike on a Saudi energy target since al Qaeda launched attacks aimed at toppling the U.S.-allied monarchy in 2003.

The statement, signed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said: ''We renew our vow to crush the forces of the crusaders and the tyrants and to stop the theft of the wealth of the Muslims.'' The authenticity of the statement, posted on a Web site often used by Islamist groups in Iraq, could not be verified.

Oil prices jumped ABQAIQ, Saudi Arabia, Feb 26 (Reuters) Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia vowed more attacks after an attempted assault on the world's largest oil processing plant ended in a massive explosion at the site's gates, a Web site statement said.

The statement issued yesterday named two suicide attackers who died in the blast as Mohammed al-Ghaith and Abdullah al-Tweijri -- both on a list of top wanted militants.

The statement said Friday's attack was in response to a call by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to target oil installations.

''We shall not cease our attacks until our territories are liberated,'' said the statement, adding the operation was successful and that some attackers got away.

It said the attackers got through two gates and blew up themselves and their vehicles as planned, rejecting Saudi state media reports that security forces stopped them.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil and gas output was unaffected by the ''terrorist attempt'' on the world's biggest oil processing plant -- the first direct strike on a Saudi energy target since al Qaeda launched attacks aimed at toppling the U.S.-allied monarchy in 2003.

The statement, signed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said: ''We renew our vow to crush the forces of the crusaders and the tyrants and to stop the theft of the wealth of the Muslims.'' The authenticity of the statement, posted on a Web site often used by Islamist groups in Iraq, could not be verified.

Oil prices jumped $2 a barrel on news of the attack in the world's largest oil exporter, which came a year after bin Laden urged his supporters to hit Gulf oil targets.

PACKED WITH EXPLOSIVES Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces fired on three cars at the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility, 1.5 km (one mile) from the main entrance.

One car carrying gunmen and two others, packed with explosives, rammed the gates, he said. Security sources said four militants and two officers died.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television said the attackers used cars bearing the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

The U.S. ambassador in Riyadh praised Saudi security forces for foiling the attack.

''The Saudi government and Saudi Aramco deserve considerable credit for what they have done in recent years to enhance the security of oil facilities throughout the kingdom,'' James C.

Oberwetter said in a statement on the embassy Web site.

''I know first hand the robust security systems that are in place there. When they were needed, those systems worked, and the facility at Abqaiq was fully protected.'' It was the first major strike by militants opposed to the Saudi royals since suicide bombers tried to storm the Interior Ministry in Riyadh in December 2004. A most wanted list issued by Saudi authorities in June gave Ghaith's age as 23 and said Tweijri was 21 years old.

Mohammad al-Merri, a relative of one of the officers killed, said the militants were able to penetrate the first checkpoint leading to the facility.

''They opened fire and killed two officers after the guards at the second checkpoint became suspicious of them,'' he told Reuters in Abqaiq.

Residents said they heard the blast from about two km (more than a mile) away, then saw smoke rising from the site.

Naimi said a small fire that broke out after the explosion was brought under control.

''Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility,'' said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York. ''This just emphasises fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.'' Officials say about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and 120 militants have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

Reuters SK VP0550 a barrel on news of the attack in the world's largest oil exporter, which came a year after bin Laden urged his supporters to hit Gulf oil targets.

PACKED WITH EXPLOSIVES Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces fired on three cars at the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility, 1.5 km (one mile) from the main entrance.

One car carrying gunmen and two others, packed with explosives, rammed the gates, he said. Security sources said four militants and two officers died.

Dubai-based Al Arabiya television said the attackers used cars bearing the logo of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco.

The U.S. ambassador in Riyadh praised Saudi security forces for foiling the attack.

''The Saudi government and Saudi Aramco deserve considerable credit for what they have done in recent years to enhance the security of oil facilities throughout the kingdom,'' James C.

Oberwetter said in a statement on the embassy Web site.

''I know first hand the robust security systems that are in place there. When they were needed, those systems worked, and the facility at Abqaiq was fully protected.'' It was the first major strike by militants opposed to the Saudi royals since suicide bombers tried to storm the Interior Ministry in Riyadh in December 2004. A most wanted list issued by Saudi authorities in June gave Ghaith's age as 23 and said Tweijri was 21 years old.

Mohammad al-Merri, a relative of one of the officers killed, said the militants were able to penetrate the first checkpoint leading to the facility.

''They opened fire and killed two officers after the guards at the second checkpoint became suspicious of them,'' he told Reuters in Abqaiq.

Residents said they heard the blast from about two km (more than a mile) away, then saw smoke rising from the site.

Naimi said a small fire that broke out after the explosion was brought under control.

''Abqaiq is the world's most important oil facility,'' said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York. ''This just emphasises fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.'' Officials say about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and 120 militants have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.

Reuters SK VP0550

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