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Six Mortars Fall in Uninhabited Area Near Saudi Border

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, said six mortar shells fell in an uninhabited desert area where the kingdom’s border meets with those of Iraq and Kuwait.

The shells fell in an expanse near the city of Hafr Al-Baten in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern region, according to the state-run SPA news agency. The shells didn’t injure anyone or cause any damage, SPA said, citing Border Guard Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Ghamdi.

Jaysh al-Mokhtar, a Shiite Iraqi group whose name means “the army of the chosen one,” claimed responsibility for the attack, SkyNews Arabia reported, citing its own correspondent. Saudi Arabian border guards have contacted their counterparts in “neighboring countries” to “take necessary measures” and determine the source of the attack, SPA said, citing Al-Ghamdi.

Al-Mokhtar’s leader, Wathiq Al-Battat, told Iran’s state-run Fars news agency two months ago that his group would target Saudi Arabian oil installations and ports if the U.S. attacked Syria. He claimed to have 23,000 fighters who are ready to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

Saudi Arabia is backing the Syrian opposition in its fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Proxy War

Saudi Arabia is the Gulf’s chief Sunni Muslim power, while Shiite-ruled Iran is Assad’s most important ally in the region. Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group supported by Iran, has said it joined Assad’s forces in his war against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels.

“Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Iraq are all interconnected, and have formed alliances of minorities in the region,” Khalid al-Dakhil, a political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, said by phone. “They consider Bashar al-Assad as one of them and their duty to defend him.”

The proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is one element of the conflict in Syria, which has left more than 100,000 dead and displaced 2 million Syrians, according to United Nations estimates.

Suicide bomb blasts on Nov. 19 near the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed at least 23 people. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon today urge Saudis to leave the country, the official Lebanese National News Agency said.

West Texas Intermediate for January delivery rose as much as 35 cents to $94.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $94.16 as of 12:40 p.m. London time. Prices settled at $93.03 on Nov. 18, the lowest settlement since May 31.

“This might be the first attack, but to what extent it will escalate no one knows,” al-Dakhil said. “It certainly won’t be the last and isn’t going to be an isolated or individual incident.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net; Deema Almashabi in Riyadh at dalmashabi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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