Al Qaeda Strikes Main Saudi Oil Outlet
DEBKAfile Special Report
1 May 2004
The worlds largest oil producer was shaken Saturday, May 1, by the first terrorist strike against a joint US-Saudi oil venture, the co-owned Exxon-Mobil-SABIC oil refinery at the kingdoms main oil exporting outlet to the West at the Red Sea port of Yanbu 350 km northwest of Riyadh. At least five Western engineers 2 Americans, 2 Britons and an Australian as well as a Saudi National Guards captain were killed and many more injured, including two Canadians.
The Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Turki bin-Faisal, said the attack was carried out by Saudi members of the al Qaeda cult, three of whom were gunned down by Saudi security forces and a fourth captured.
The attack began just after dawn and raged until the afternoon, as the suicide killers, in Saudi National Guards uniforms, yelling Jihad, Jihad! careened around downtown Yanbu in a commandeered Saudi security vehicle and cars seized from private citizens.
After attacking the refinery, they stormed the offices of ABB Lummus, whose headquarters are in Houston, Texas. There, they shot the five Westerners dead before shooting up a hotel, a McDonalds restaurant and shops and tossing a pipe bomb at the International School in Yanbu. Saudi security forces repulsed an attack on the offices of the Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu.
Witnesses report that one of their western victims was tied to a car and dragged round the city before being dumped outside a Saudi-British bank.
DEBKAfiles counter-terror sources question the official casualty numbers and also the statement that only four terrorists dealt this much damage to so many targets and kept going for more than six hours. It is far more likely that several al Qaeda bands fanned out over the strategic town, which until Saturday had escaped al Qaeda violence.
The raid occurred exactly one week after al Qaeda suicide bombers used speedboats to disable Iraqs main export terminals off the southern port of Basra.
Six million foreigners live in Saudi Arabia, 30,000 of whom hold key positions
in the kingdoms oil industry and other vital sectors. ABB Lummus is considering
repatriating all its Western employees. This latest al Qaeda attack is one more
blow aimed by the fundamentalist organization at sabotaging US-Saudi oil interests,
destabilizing the Saudi throne and forcing oil prices to spiral as the US presidential
election date nears.