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Saudi Arabia says its oil pipeline was attacked by drones

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UBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An oil pipeline that runs across Saudi Arabia was yesterday hit by drones west of its capital of Riyadh, the Saudi energy minister said, shortly after rebels in Yemen claimed they carried out coordinated drone strikes against the kingdom.

The attacks followed reports of sabotage against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, with tensions rising between the US and Iran.

Oil prices rose yesterday, with benchmark Brent crude trading over $71 a barrel, up more than $1 on the day.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih vowed that production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted. In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, he called the pipeline attack “cowardly,” saying that recent acts of sabotage against the kingdom’s vital installations were targeting not only Saudi Arabia, but also the safety of the world’s energy supply and global economy.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they launched seven drones against vital installations in Saudi Arabia, which borders Yemen to the north. Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis and their allies in Yemen since March 2015, targeting the Iranian-allied rebels with near daily airstrikes.

“This is a message to Saudi Arabia: Stop your aggression,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam told The Associated Press. “Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing everyday against the Yemeni people.”

The two oil pumping stations targeted in Saudi Arabia are over 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Yemen’s northern border with the kingdom. It wasn’t immediately known where the Houthis launched the drones.

The attacks demonstrated the increased risks in a region vital to global energy supplies amid heightened tensions following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and the subsequent reimposition of US sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy. Iran has since said it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels by July 7 if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

Al-Falih said the drone attacks reaffirm the need of the international community to confront the activities of groups like the Houthis, whom he accused of being backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

He said the drones had targeted petroleum pumping stations supplying a pipeline running from its oil-rich Eastern Province to the Yanbu Port on the Red Sea.

Saudi Aramco, the government-controlled oil company, said that as a precaution, it temporarily shut down the East-West Pipeline and contained the fire, which caused minor damage to one pumping station. It added that Saudi Aramco’s oil and gas supplies have not been affected by the attack.

Saudi Arabia said the two petroleum pumping stations that were struck by drones are located in the greater region of Riyadh, home to the landlocked capital. The stations, targeted around the same time early Tuesday, are located in al-Duadmi and Afif, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Riyadh city and 400 kilometres (250 miles) west of Riyadh city, respectively.

Saudi Arabia built its pipeline in the 1980s amid fears that the Iran-Iraq war would cut off shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The 1,200-kilometre (746-mile) pipeline is actually two pipes that have a total capacity of 4.8 million barrels of crude oil a day, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The four oil tankers that were targeted Sunday off the coast of the UAE’s port of Fujairah were allegedly damaged in what Gulf officials described as sabotage, although satellite images obtained Tuesday by the AP showed no visible damage to the vessels.

The MT Andrea Victory, one of the alleged targets, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from “an unknown object”, its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement. Images Monday of the Norwegian-flagged Andrea Victory, which the company said was “not in any danger of sinking”, showed damage similar to what the firm described.

Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker remain unclear, and Gulf officials have refused to say who they suspected was responsible.

Satellite images provided to the AP by Colorado-based Maxar Technologies showed a boom surrounding the Emirati oil tanker A Michel, indicating the possibility of an oil leak. The other three showed no visible damage from above.

A US official in Washington, without offering any evidence, told the AP that a US military team’s initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships. The official was not authorised to discuss the investigation and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US has recently warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. Washington has deployed an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

Speaking in New Delhi, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad said he spoke with Indian officials about concerns of “suspicious activities and sabotage in the region.”

“We announced that we had previously predicted these sorts of activities aimed at escalating tension in the region,” he said.

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq called on “all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security”.

On Tuesday, Spain temporarily pulled one of its frigates that was part of a US-led combat fleet from near the Persian Gulf because of the mounting tensions. The Ministry of Defense said the Mndez Nez, with 215 sailors aboard, will not cross the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf with the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Spanish frigate was the only non-US vessel in the fleet.

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Bomb blast hits tourist bus near Egypt pyramids, injuring 17

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GIZA, Egypt (AFP) — A bomb blast hit a tourist bus near Egypt’s famed Giza pyramids on Sunday, wounding at least 17 people, including South Africans, in the latest blow to the country’s tourism industry.

 The roadside bomb went off as the bus was being driven in Giza, also causing injuries to Egyptians in a nearby car, medical and security sources said.

 There were no deaths reported.

 “A device exploded and smashed the windows of a bus carrying 25 people from South Africa and a private car carrying four Egyptians,” the security source said.

Video footage captured by AFP showed the bus and car with broken windows on the side of the road.

According to the security source, the wounded were being treated for scratches caused by the broken glass.

Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesman for South Africa’s department of international relations, told AFP that “there might be South Africans involved” but declined to give any figures.

Sunday’s incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the Giza pyramids outside Cairo in December.

It also comes just little more than a month before the African Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt is to kick off.

 Egypt has been battling an insurgency that surged especially in the turbulent North Sinai region following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was replaced by former army general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

 In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing mainly on the North Sinai region.

Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.

Since first being elected in 2014, Sisi has presented himself as a bulwark against terrorism, promising stability and increased security.

Recently, the country’s vital tourism industry has started to slowly rebound after suffering strong blows due to deadly attacks targeting tourists following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled long time ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Figures by the official statistics agency showed that tourist arrivals reached 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year.

Authorities have gone at great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.

 But that figure was still far short of the record influx of 2010 when more than 14 million visitors flocked to see the country’s sites.

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Is charity the new publicity stunt?

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Dear Editor, 

Recently, a famous dancehall entertainer lashed out at an Instagram follower who criticised one of her posts. 

In this particular video post, we see the entertainer delivering clothes and appliances to a needy family in Jamaica. The follower expressed that some people seem to be doing “things for fame” as their acts of charity are often posted on social media. Not surprisingly, she was subsequently hurled with some “bloody-bamboo” cloth for her comment. 

In a follow-up post, the entertainer explained that the items were donated by a number of people. Consequently, it was necessary to publicise their delivery so that the “people who donated their money can see [that] the stuff went to the people.” 

Certainly, I applaud people, such as this entertainer, for generously giving to those in need. Such an act is commendable, and many of us should really follow suit. However, like her follower, I am not always comfortable with the broadcasting of charitable acts. 

Last Christmas, I saw the showcasing of many similar charities. Several of my social media “friends,” for example, presented boxes of food to the homeless. Their kindness was heartening, but something about their doing was deeply off-putting.  

Some of these people presented the food in a manner quite akin to one presenting certificates at an award ceremony. 

They outstretched the food boxes with one hand, extended the other for a handshake, paused in position and smiled for the camera. The pictures were then plastered all over their Instagram and Facebook pages. Now, what is the real reason for doing all this? Who truly benefits? 

Growing up, I speculated that my mother gave away many of our outgrown clothes. They just disappeared. In fact, one day, I even saw a little girl in a dress resembling one I owned. However, I could only have assumed that it was mine as Mum kept all the recipients secret.

She feared that we would have flapped our mouths about these persons or worse, jeer the children for wearing “second hand”. Therefore, I learnt from very early that people may be very poor and needy, but they still have their pride. Allow people the privacy to enjoy what you give them.

Nobody wants to be on the road and constantly pointed at and talked about because he or she was broadcast on social media as a charity beneficiary. 

Please, continue to give, but you do not need to make a show of this. Charity should never be a social or political ploy. 

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock

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12-y-o Tameica Parry reported missing

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — A High Alert has been activated for 12-year-old Tameica Parry, student of Fairview Avenue, Kingston 11 who has been missing since Saturday, May 18.

Tameica is of dark complexion, slim build and is about 5 feet 3 inches tall.

Reports are that Tameica was last seen at home. Her mode of dress at the time she went missing is unknown. 

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Tameica is being asked to contact the Olympic Gardens Police at 876-923-5468, Police 119 emergency number or the nearest police station.

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