Saudi Arabia says six shells fall near border post close to Iraq, Kuwait

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2013 12:25 AM

By Angus McDowall

RIYADH (Reuters) - Six mortar shells landed near a remote Saudi border post close to neighboring fellow oil producers Iraq and Kuwait on Wednesday, but caused no damage, the kingdom said on Thursday.

The shells hit desert on the far northwestern fringes of the kingdom's oil producing region and several hundred kilometers (miles) from its top fields, source of the world's largest oil exports and heart of the largest Arab economy.

"Six mortar shells fell in an uninhabited area near the new al-Auja border guard centre of Hafr al-Batin in the Eastern Province. Thank God no damage resulted from it," said General Mohammed al-Ghamdi, the border guard media spokesman, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Ghamdi said he had been in contact with border guards of "neighboring countries" to take necessary measures to determine the source of mortar fire and prevent it recurring.

Saudi news website sabq.org published photographs showing what it said were small craters in the desert caused by the impact of the shells. A high barbed wire fence and a road could be seen in some of the pictures.

Sunni Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and a close ally of Kuwait, has an uneasy relationship with the Shi'ite Muslim-led Iraqi government, which it regards as a pawn of its main regional rival Iran.

It has not had an ambassador in Baghdad since before the 1990-91 Gulf War.

Sectarian fighting in Iraq over the past decade has involved Sunni militant groups close to al Qaeda and Shi'ite militias which regard Saudi Arabia unfavorably.

Some Iraqi Shi'ites support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's 2-1/2-year-old civil war, in which Saudi-backed Sunni armed groups are among rebels fighting to end his rule.

Some Shi'ite commentators in the region have accused Saudi Arabia of responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 23 people near an Iranian embassy compound in Beirut on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia said it strongly condemned the attack.

The kingdom has constructed a barricade of fences along its Iraqi border.

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province shares around 60 km (38 miles) of border with Iraq near the town of Hafr al-Batin. The border area is deep in the desert, with no towns or villages nearby. The province also borders Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia has significant oil facilities in the Neutral Zone it shares with Kuwait, more than 100 km (62 miles) from Hafr al-Batin, but its main oil and gas fields are located much further to the southeast, hundreds of km (miles) away.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by William Maclean and Elizabeth Piper)