Drone strikes damage oil pipeline in attack on Saudi Arabia soil

TOPSHOT - Supporters of Yemen's Huthi rebels attend a rally marking the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition's intervention in Yemen, in the capital Sanaa on March 26, 2019. - A Saudi-led military coalition entered Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of restoring its "legitimate" government to power after the Huthis and their allies took over Sanaa. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Supporters of Yemen's Huthi rebels attend a rally marking the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition's intervention in Yemen, in the capital Sanaa on March 26, 2019. - A Saudi-led military coalition entered Yemen in March 2015 with the goal of restoring its "legitimate" government to power after the Huthis and their allies took over Sanaa. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Saudi Arabia has said oil infrastructure sites belonging to the country’s state-run oil company Aramco have been targeted and that at least one of the attacks was carried out by drone strikes.

The announcement yesterday came shortly after Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed an assault on the kingdom.

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The state Saudi Press Agency quoted Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih as saying that between 6am to 6:30am (3-3:30am GMT), a petroleum pumping station supplying an east-west pipeline between the Eastern Province and to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea was targeted by drones.

He said a fire broke out at a station along the pipeline and was subsequently put out.

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Aramco has temporarily stopped pumping petroleum through the pipeline until inspection of the damage is complete.

The kingdom’s state security body also says two oil infrastructure sites in the greater region of Riyadh – its landlocked capital – were targeted at the same time.

The statement described it as a “limited targeting” of petroleum stations in areas al-Dudami and Afif in Riyadh region. The spokesman for the rebels, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, said the Houthis launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom.

He said: “This is a message to Saudi Arabia – stop your aggression.”

Mr Abdel-Salam also said: “Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing every day against the Yemeni people.”

In Yemen, the high-pitched whine of drones has been a part of life for more than 15 years, ever since the first US drone strike here targeting al-Qaida in 2002.

But now Iran-backed Houthi rebels increasingly deploy drones in Yemen’s brutal civil war.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has been battling the rebels since 2015, said drones attacked an oil pipeline as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom yesterday.

The Houthis claimed a co-ordinated drone attack, underscoring how the Arab world’s poorest country has become one of the world’s top battlefields for drones.

Both the rebels and the Saudi-led coalition fighting them, as well as the US, continue to use them for surveillance and attacks. While the US uses American-made drones and the coalition has turned to Chinese suppliers, the manufacturer of the Houthis’ drones in both the air and the sea has been a contentious question.

Saudi-led coalition forces last year showed journalists a Houthi “drone boat” filled with explosives that had failed to detonate. For its part, Iran repeatedly has denied supplying the Houthis with drone or ballistic missile technology.