Al-Qaeda Claims Attack on Saudi Refinery

As predicted, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attempted bombing of a Saudi refinery.

Suicide bombers carried out a bold attack on the world’s largest oil processing facility Friday but were stopped from breaking in by guards who fired on their cars, exploding both vehicles and killing the attackers. Al-Qaida purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, the first on an oil facility in Saudi Arabia. The assault raised speculation that the militants were adopting the tactics of insurgents across the border in Iraq, where the oil industry has been repeatedly targeted.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi quickly announced that the attack “did not affect operations” and that Abqaiq operations and exports “continued to operate normally.” The huge Abqaiq processing facility near the Persian Gulf prepares about two-thirds of the country’s oil output for export, making it a crucial link in getting Saudi crude to the market.

Crude oil futures spiked more than $2 a barrel amid fears militants would again target the vital industry. Light sweet crude for April delivery surged as high as $63.25 a barrel before settling at $62.91, an increase of $2.37 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude futures for April delivery jumped $2.06 to $62.60 on London’s ICE Futures exchange.

The attack in Abqaiq, about 25 miles inland from Saudi Arabia’s eastern Gulf coast, took place at about 3 p.m. — several hours after the weekly prayers on Friday, a day off for Saudis though the facility was in operation. At least two militants were killed in the explosions, and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television reported two security guards also died. Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki could not confirm the deaths of the security guards but said two were critically wounded with potentially lethal injuries.

Unfortunately, even a failed attack succeeds in raising fear and, in this case, oil prices.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    While it didn’t succeed, this was AQ’s announcement that the Saudi oil infrastructure is now open game. Remember after 9/11 when Bin Laden said that AQ would not attack the oil infrastructure as that was the property of the Muslims. I guess now that AQ has no illusions of a quick demise of the Saui royal family so they will target their pocketbook as well as that of the west.

  2. John Burgess says:

    I suspect the thinking (!) is that by crippling oil output–and thus, oil income–AQAP believes it can undercut the legitimacy of the Al-Saud. That, in turn, would lead to their overthrow and replacement by AQAP, and they all live happily ever after.

    This line of thought, though, misses a couple of important points: The Al-Saud have a history of survival, and AQAP has been severely crippled in its leadership. Just about any fool can make a bomb and put it in a car. It takes expertise, skill, and knowledge to get it next to the thing you want to blow up. Most of that has been taken out by Saudi anti-terror efforts over the past few years.

    By going for a “spectacular,” these guys missed softer targets that might have represented an even greater threat to stability. Good thing they really weren’t “thinking.”