Kuwait: Detained members of an Al Qaeda-linked group planned to attack Kuwait’s Shuaiba oil refinery during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a security official said on Wednesday.
Kuwait, the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, said on Tuesday it had foiled a plan by a six-member Al Qaeda-linked network to bomb the Arifjan US Army camp, the state security building, and “important facilities”, but gave no further details on the other potential targets.
“The group planned to attack Shuaiba during Ramadan,” the security official told Reuters. Ramadan, a lunar month, is due to begin around 22 August.
The ageing 200,000 barrels per day Shuaiba plant is the smallest of the Opec member’s three refineries, which have a combined capacity of around 930,000 bpd.
Members of the cell, led by a surgeon at one of the US-allied Gulf state’s hospitals, had confessed to planning attacks aimed at pressuring the US to remove Kuwait-based troops, al-Anbaa newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources it said were familiar with the investigation.
Kuwait was the launch pad for the 2003 US-led war on Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. The US army uses sites in the Arab country as a logistics base to support troops in Iraq. Camp Arifjan is located south of the capital Kuwait.
The group used Google Earth to acquire images of the refinery, the camp and a state security building, Anbaa reported.
Al Qaeda has waged attacks in Kuwait in recent years and bombed foreign housing complexes and oil sites in several Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia, but a crackdown by governments in the region has succeeded in preventing fresh violence.
“This refinery is very well protected,” said a Kuwaiti oil official. “There is really no way to approach it by land.”
Kuwait bolstered security around Shuaiba in 2005 and tightened measures to protect oil installations in 2007 after top oil exporter and neighbour Saudi Arabia foiled an Al Qaeda-linked plot that included plans to attack oil facilities.
Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden have urged militants to strike oil targets in Muslim countries.