Drone strikes caused fires that raged at two facilities of Saudi Arabia’s vast state oil company, the country’s interior ministry said, in what Yemen’s Houthi rebels described as one of their largest-ever operations inside the kingdom.
The strikes mark the latest in a series of attacks on the country’s petroleum assets in recent months, as tensions rise among Iran and its proxies like the Houthis, and the U.S. and partners like Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have also claimed credit for drone attacks on Saudi pipelines, tankers and other infrastructure during a four-year war.
On Saturday morning, Saudi officials were investigating attacks on Aramco’s facility at Abqaiq in the kingdom’s Eastern Province and another at the Hijra Khurais oil field, the interior ministry said in a tweet.
Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or the national firm better known as Aramco, describes the Abqaiq oil-processing facility as the largest crude-oil stabilization plant in the world. Khurais is the home of the country’s second-largest oil field.
Saudi officials with knowledge of the attack described a confusing, still unfolding set of circumstances. The officials said multiple drones attacked the facilities.
One Aramco executive said Aramco compounds, where workers live, had been evacuated.
The Saudi interior ministry said the fires were under control. Published images of the fire at the Abqaiq facility showed what appeared to be a huge blaze along with plumes of smoke.
The Saudi government didn’t say who was behind the attack. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in 2014 during a civil war. Since then, a Saudi-led coalition has fought a war to unseat the Houthis and reinstate a government supported by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other regional powers.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. say the Houthis are financed and armed by Iran, a charge that Tehran denies.
Drone and missiles launched by the Houthis have repeatedly struck inside Saudi Arabia in recent months, hitting airports and other civilian installations. At least one drone strike was launched from neighboring Iraq, according to U.S. officials.
Saudi and American officials have blamed Iran for targeting the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, including the use of mines to damage Saudi oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May.
Iran has denied striking Saudi targets or coordinating with Yemeni rebels to hit the kingdom’s oil equipment.
Disruptions in Saudi oil production could have ripple effects through the global economy, as the kingdom exports more crude petroleum than any other country.
Saudi officials have called for the international community to help protect its oil infrastructure.
Recently reimposed U.S. sanctions on Tehran have crippled its oil industry and sent its economy into a tailspin, raising fears of a broader conflict in the Middle East. The U.S. action came after President Trump pulled out of a 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, saying it didn’t go far enough to rein in Tehran’s regional ambitions.
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