Militant threat to oil installations grows



Oil installations in the Arabian Peninsular are under growing threat from militant groups hostile to western interests, and companies in the region should increase their vigilance, a leading risk consultancy warns. Jonathan Wood, a global issues analyst with the London-based security adviser Control Risks, said his group predicted a rise in militant activity against Saudi Arabian energy facilities. Mr Wood said the expected increase in sabotage attempts in the region would be largely opportunistic, resulting from the relocation of al Qa'eda operatives from other hot spots. "It's an opportune moment with the US withdrawing from Iraq and NATO forces intractably bogged down in Pakistan and Afghanistan," said Mr Wood, who was in Abu Dhabi to give a briefing at the Officers' Club. He said the global financial crisis had exposed western economic vulnerability and militant groups were focusing more of their resources on disrupting western economic interests, including the flow of Gulf oil exports. The Saudi government is on increased alert against the threat posed by a build-up of al Qa'eda's presence in neighbouring Yemen, encouraged by that country's deteriorating economic and political situation, Mr Wood said. The reported killing in Yemen of several hostages seized last weekend by anti-government rebels could mark a new pattern in violence towards foreigners, said Ginny Hill, the author of a research paper on Yemen for the think tank Chatham House, also based in London. "The calculated execution of captive hostages would represent a new and chilling tactic, and confirm fears that al Qa'eda's capacity and ambition in Yemen are increasing," Ms Hill said. Mr Wood said the governments of major Gulf oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had done a good job recently of protecting their energy installations, but no security programme was ever 100 per cent effective. In 2006, Saudi authorities foiled an al Qa'eda attack on the kingdom's Abqaiq oil refinery, which processes about two thirds of the crude pumped by Saudi Aramco. The next year, they arrested more than 170 militants suspected of planning attacks on military and oil facilities, with more than 700 arrests following last year. In 2003, al Qa'eda launched a campaign aimed at overthrowing the Saudi royal family, featuring a string of attacks aimed mostly at foreigners. In May 2004, gunmen attacked two compounds in the eastern Saudi city of Khobar, used by US and European contractors, taking hostages in a siege that resulted in 22 deaths. Earlier that month, armed attackers stormed the offices of a Houston oil company in the western Saudi oil centre of Yanbu, killing six expatriates and a Saudi national. In Dec 2004, the al Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden called on militants to attack oil targets in the Gulf to stop the flow of oil to the West. In Iraq, security concerns are receding, but rising political uncertainty is posing a new set of challenges to foreign energy companies seeking to return to the country for the first time since it nationalised its oil sector in 1972. The clients of Control Risks are worried about whether the Iraqi oil minister, Dr Hussein al Shahristani, will survive criticism of his policies by parliamentarians intent on disrupting the ministry's plan to award long-term contracts under Iraq's first post-war oil and gas licensing round. Without a federal oil law in place to protect contracts and with national elections set for early next year, they are concerned about what could happen with a new government or oil minister in place. Foreign consortiums have been invited to bid on contracts to boost output from six of Iraq's biggest oilfields and two gasfields, with the winners to be announced at the end of this month. But Dr al Shahristani's opponents have been trying to derail the bidding round and have called for the contract awards to be postponed or cancelled. tcarlisle@thenational.ae

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
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COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

hall of shame

SUNDERLAND 2002-03

No one has ended a Premier League season quite like Sunderland. They lost each of their final 15 games, taking no points after January. They ended up with 19 in total, sacking managers Peter Reid and Howard Wilkinson and losing 3-1 to Charlton when they scored three own goals in eight minutes.

SUNDERLAND 2005-06

Until Derby came along, Sunderland’s total of 15 points was the Premier League’s record low. They made it until May and their final home game before winning at the Stadium of Light while they lost a joint record 29 of their 38 league games.

HUDDERSFIELD 2018-19

Joined Derby as the only team to be relegated in March. No striker scored until January, while only two players got more assists than goalkeeper Jonas Lossl. The mid-season appointment Jan Siewert was to end his time as Huddersfield manager with a 5.3 per cent win rate.

ASTON VILLA 2015-16

Perhaps the most inexplicably bad season, considering they signed Idrissa Gueye and Adama Traore and still only got 17 points. Villa won their first league game, but none of the next 19. They ended an abominable campaign by taking one point from the last 39 available.

FULHAM 2018-19

Terrible in different ways. Fulham’s total of 26 points is not among the lowest ever but they contrived to get relegated after spending over £100 million (Dh457m) in the transfer market. Much of it went on defenders but they only kept two clean sheets in their first 33 games.

LA LIGA: Sporting Gijon, 13 points in 1997-98.

BUNDESLIGA: Tasmania Berlin, 10 points in 1965-66

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Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

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WHAT IS A BLACK HOLE?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

The biog

Name: Dhabia Khalifa AlQubaisi

Age: 23

How she spends spare time: Playing with cats at the clinic and feeding them

Inspiration: My father. He’s a hard working man who has been through a lot to provide us with everything we need

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Word of advice: By being patient, good things will come and by staying positive you’ll have the will to continue to love what you're doing

Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

Director: Luv Ranjan

Stars: Ranbir Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Anubhav Singh Bassi and Dimple Kapadia

Rating: 3/5

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'Worse than a prison sentence'

Marie Byrne, a counsellor who volunteers at the UAE government's mental health crisis helpline, said the ordeal the crew had been through would take time to overcome.

“It was worse than a prison sentence, where at least someone can deal with a set amount of time incarcerated," she said.

“They were living in perpetual mystery as to how their futures would pan out, and what that would be.

“Because of coronavirus, the world is very different now to the one they left, that will also have an impact.

“It will not fully register until they are on dry land. Some have not seen their young children grow up while others will have to rebuild relationships.

“It will be a challenge mentally, and to find other work to support their families as they have been out of circulation for so long. Hopefully they will get the care they need when they get home.”

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5