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Saudi Arabia: Riyadh oil refinery hit in drone attack claimed by Houthis

Attack follows a series of similar ones on Saudi facilities by Yemen's Iran-aligned group
An employee at the Saudi Aramco oil facility, Jeddah, November 2020 (AFP)

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement have claimed responsibility for a drone attack on an oil refinery in Riyadh.

The attack caused a small fire, Saudi officials said on Friday, as crude prices soar following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The incident, which took place early on Thursday, follows a series of similar attacks on Saudi facilities by the Houthis. 

In a statement on Friday, Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia's energy minister, avoided directly blaming the attack on the Houthis, who have been fighting against a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen since 2015.

"The Riyadh oil refinery was attacked by a drone, resulting in a small fire that has been brought under control," he said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

"The attack did not result in any injury or death, nor was the supply of oil or its derivatives affected."

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He added that the repeated attacks on Saudi infrastructure "do not just target the Kingdom but aim to undermine the security and stability of global energy supplies".

The attack comes at a time when the conflict in Ukraine is causing extreme volatility in Brent oil prices, which have fluctuated between $139 and $105 in the past few days.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest oil exporters, and its partners in the Opec alliance, are all under pressure to raise production to help control the price of oil. 

In a televised address, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the Saudi Aramco refinery was hit with three drones.

He said they also targeted other Aramco facilities in the Saudi cities of Jizan and Abha.

Air and sea access to Yemen are controlled by the coalition, which says restrictions are necessary to prevent arms smuggling. 

The coalition has accused Iran of arming the Houthi rebels and blamed Tehran for past attacks, such as the 2019 strike on oil plants.

Iran has denied responsibility for the attacks.