Jiddah(AP): Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked an oil depot on Friday in the Saudi city of Jiddah ahead of a Formula One race in the kingdom. It was the rebels' highest-profile assault yet, though Saudi authorities pledged the upcoming grand prix would go on as scheduled.
The attack targeted the same fuel depot that the Houthis had attacked in recent days, the North Jiddah Bulk Plant that sits just southeast of the city's international airport and is a crucial hub for Muslim pilgrims heading to Makkah. No injuries were reported in the attack.
The Saudi Arabian Oil Co, known as Saudi Aramco, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Saudi authorities acknowledged a hostile operation by the Houthis targeting the depot with a missile.
In Yemen, Saudi Arabia leads a coalition battling the Iran-backed Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital of Sanaa in September 2014. The kingdom, which entered the war in 2015, has been internationally criticized for its airstrikes killing that have killed scores of civilians - something the Houthis point to as they launch drones, missiles and mortars into the kingdom.
Brig Gen Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the fire damaged two tanks and was put out without injuries.
"This hostile escalation targets oil facilities and aims to undermine energy security and the backbone of global economy," al-Malki said, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. These hostile attacks had no impact or repercussions in any way, shape or form on public life in Jiddah.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the Houthi attacks on Twitter. These strikes put civilian lives at risk and must stop, he wrote.
An Associated Press photojournalist covering practice laps at the F1 track in Jiddah saw the smoke rising in the distance to the east, just after 5:40 pm. As the flames rose, the tops of the tanks of the bulk plant were clearly visible some 11.5 km (7 miles) away.
Drivers raced on into the evening even as the fire burned.
The second-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jiddah is taking place on Sunday, though concerns had been raised by some over the recent attacks targeting the kingdom.
Hours later, the F1 said plans for Saturday's third practice and qualifying and Sunday's race were still set to go ahead. The Saudi Motorsport Co, which promotes the race, acknowledged the attack but said the race weekend schedule will continue as planned.
We remain in direct contact with Saudi security authorities, as well as F1 and the FIA to ensure all necessary security and safety measures, the company said, referring to motorsport's governing body.
The safety and security of all our guests continues to be our main priority."
The al-Masirah satellite news channel run by Yemen's Houthi rebels later claimed they had attacked an Aramco facility in Jiddah, along with other targets in Riyadh and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Saudi state TV also acknowledged attacks in one town targeting water tanks that damaged vehicles and homes. Another attack targeted an electrical substation in an area of southwestern Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border, state TV said.
The North Jiddah Bulk Plant stores diesel, gasoline and jet fuel for use in Jiddah, the kingdom's second-largest city. It accounts for over a quarter of all of Saudi Arabia's supplies and also supplies fuel crucial to running a regional desalination plant.
The Houthis have twice targeted the North Jiddah plant with cruise missiles. One attack came in November 2020. The last came on Sunday as part of a wider barrage by the Houthis.
At the time of the 2020 attack, the targeted tank, which has a capacity of 500,000 barrels, held diesel fuel, according to a recent report by a UN panel of experts examining Yemen's war. Repairing it after the last attack cost Aramco some 1.5 million.
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New Delhi(PTI): The Union Home Ministry has asked all states that there should be no delay in registration of FIRs in cases of crimes against SCs and STs and closely monitor such cases where investigation goes beyond two months.
In a communication to all states and Union Territories, the home ministry also said that the district Superintendent of Police (SP) must ensure timely attendance and protection of all prosecution witnesses including police officers and official witnesses for speedy trial of cases related to crimes against Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
"There should be no delay in the registration of FIR in cases of crimes against SCs and STs. Ensure proper supervision at appropriate level of cases of crimes against SCs and STs, from the recording of FIR to the disposal of the case by the competent court," it said in the communication accessed by PTI.
The home ministry said the delays in investigation (beyond 60 days from the date of filing of FIR) shall be monitored at the district and state level in every three months, and wherever required, special DSPs shall be appointed to expedite the process of investigation.
"The authorities concerned in the state governments must ensure proper follow up of reports of cases of atrocities against SCs and STs received from various sources, including the National Commission for SCs and STs," the communication said.
The home ministry said atrocity-prone areas may be identified for taking preventive measures to save life and property of the members of the SC and ST communities. Adequate number of police personnel, fully equipped with policing infrastructure, should be posted in the police stations in such vulnerable areas.
"Delay in trial of cases of crimes against SCs and STs may be reviewed on a regular basis in the monitoring committee or monthly meetings chaired by district and sessions judge attended by District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and Public Prosecutor of the district," it said.
The union government attaches the highest importance to matters relating to the prevention of crime, and therefore, it has been advising the state governments and UT administrations from time to time to give more focused attention to the administration of the criminal justice system with emphasis on prevention and control of crime including crimes against SCs and STs, the communication said.
The government of India is deeply concerned with the crimes against the weaker sections of society, particularly the SCs and STs and would therefore re-emphasise that urgent action should be taken by the state governments and UT administrations in such cases, it said.
The home ministry said the administration and police should play a more proactive role in detection and investigation of crimes against SCs and STs and ensure that there is no under reporting.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (POA Act) has been amended in 2015 to make it more effective.
New offences such as tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts, which are derogatory to the dignity of members of SCs and STs have been added. The punishments have also been enhanced. Provisions of special courts and speedy trial have been added.
The Act was further amended in 2018. Section 18A has been inserted whereby conduct of preliminary enquiry before registration of FIR, or to seek approval of any authority to arrest an accused is no longer required.