World's Largest Oil Facility Set Ablaze in Drone Attacks Claimed by Tehran-Backed Rebels

Yemen's Tehran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone attacks and reports of gunfire at the world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, military and government spokespersons said Saturday.

Videos emerged online Saturday morning showing massive fires at Saudi Arabia's Aramco oil processing plant, a hub for global energy supplies. Several international news wires report that it's still unclear if the Buqyaq and Khurais oil field attacks left anyone injured. The Iran government-backed Houthis claimed responsibility and may apply more international pressure on the increasingly strained relationship between the United States and Tehran.

Breaking: Reports of explosions in Buqyaq, #Saudi Arabia.

— Ahmad Algohbary (@AhmadAlgohbary) September 14, 2019

The videos appear to include audio of gunfire as large flames and smoke emanate from the Saudi oil fields. Aramco's industrial security teams told Arab News they have controlled the Saturday blazes as well as the spread of the fires and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid issued a statement Saturday morning condemning the attacks: "The U.S. strongly condemns today's drone attacks against oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost."

The Houthi rebels are supported by the Iranian government amid a Saudi-led war against them in Yemen, the Associated Press reports. The Saudi Interior Ministry and the state-run Saudi Press Agency both reported the oil processing facility fires were started after being "targeted by drones."

The Abqaiq, Buqyaq oil facility, the world's largest oil processing plant, is located less than 40 miles from Aramco's Dhahran headquarters. Crude oil sent from the giant Ghawar field is exported to some of the world's largest offshore oil loading facilities. Aramco estimates the Khurais oil field produces more than 1 million barrels of crude oil each day. The plant has more than 20 billion barrels of oil in reserve. Buqyag is about 205 miles northeast of the Saudi Arabia capital city of Riyadh.

Aramco lists its Abqaiq oil processing facility in Bugqyag as "the largest oil stabilization plant in the world."

The Houthi's Al-Masirah satellite news channel broadcast a message from military spokesman Yahia Sarie saying the rebel group launched 10 drones against the Saudi oil facility. He said similar attacks will continue should the Saudis continue to wage war against them in Yemen.

"The only option for the Saudi government is to stop attacking us," he said in the Saturday video released after the first reports of the fires.

A view of the Aramco oil refinery in Saudi Arabia in 1990. Tom Stoddart/Hulton Archive/Getty