Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, began deploying a specialized protection force to guard crude processing plants, oil fields and pipelines.
The 35,000-man force isn’t “completed on a full scale but they are actually in a position to carry out their mission,” Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki said in an interview yesterday. “They have enough for every area they want to secure.”
The ministry started training the force in 2007 to project the kingdom’s oil infrastructure from terrorist attacks. Al- Qaeda has attacked oil facilities in a bid to destabilize the power of the ruling monarchy and hurt its Western allies.
Saudi forces detained more than 100 terror suspects in March plotting attacks on energy installations. In 2007, police detained more than 170 people suspected of plotting attacks on oil fields and installations. A suicide attack at the Abqaiq oil-processing center, which handles two-thirds of the oil supply from the kingdom, was foiled in 2006.
“Once they complete hiring the 35,000, this will not be the end of it because they will have to go through a series of training programs in order to make sure that everybody in the force is able to carry out their mission,” al-Turki said.
The country, which ships about 50 percent of its oil through the Strait of Hormuz, produced 8.25 million barrels of oil a day in December, according to Bloomberg estimates.