Saudi Arabia has alerted state-owned oil company Aramco and shopping malls in the capital, Riyadh, of a possible terrorist attack, according to an Interior Ministry official.
“We have informed security forces to be on alert and to take any necessary security procedures” after gathering information about “a possible terrorist attack attempt,” spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said in a phone interview on Monday. He didn’t provide additional information.
Saudi Arabia is combating militants in the world’s largest oil supplier to prevent attacks against energy infrastructure and Western nationals. The U.S. Embassy last month stopped its consular services in the Saudi capital, Jeddah and Dhahran amid heightened security concerns.
Foreign nationals have been targeted in a series of attacks since the kingdom joined the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State last year. A U.S. citizen working for an American defense contractor was killed in Riyadh in October and a Danish citizen was shot and injured there the following month.
“Al-Qaeda has threatened oil and other economic nodes in Saudi Arabia,” said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington. “They would target these sites to disrupt the sense of safety in the kingdom, to try to diminish the credibility of the leadership of Saudi Arabia and to create a new marker for what they will and can do.”
Militants attacked an oil installation and stormed a housing complex in the city of al-Khobar in 2004, killing 22 foreign workers. Two years later, a group linked to al-Qaeda tried to penetrate the southern gate of Abqaiq, the world’s largest oil facility, with twin car bombs.
In Riyadh, there have been recent attacks against police. Two were killed in a drive-by shooting this month by gunmen in an unidentified vehicle, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. A police officer was wounded on patrol in March by gunmen.
Since Thursday, cars entering the parking lot of the Kingdom Center commercial and office complex have been searched. Metal detectors were added near all entrances. Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Co. and the Four Seasons Hotel are located there.