SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen foiled two suicide attacks on its oil and gas facilities on Friday, days after al Qaeda urged Muslims to target Western interests, especially oil installations.
The Interior Ministry said four bombers were killed when security forces blew up four rigged cars at dawn before they reached their targets. A guard was also killed.
There was no damage to the state-owned facilities, the ministry added. Yemen, a minor oil producer, is the ancestral home of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and has been battling militants for years.
"The Interior Ministry foiled early this morning two terrorist attacks involving four cars that targeted an oil exporting terminal in Hadramout and an oil refinery and gas production unit in Marib," said an official statement.
The attempted attacks occurred east of the capital Sanaa.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Yemen said it had launched an investigation.
Militants from al Qaeda and other groups regard Western allied governments such as Yemen's as traitors and therefore legitimate targets. On Monday, al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on Muslims to strike Western interests and stop what he called the theft of Muslim oil by the West.
The ministry statement said that in the first attack, one of the bombers was disguised as a military officer while the second attacker was wearing the uniform of workers at the terminal.
It said a small fire broke out at one of the storage tanks in Hadramout, and it was quickly brought under control.
In the Marib attack, two cars tried to storm the refinery and gas production unit, the ministry said. The Marib refinery has a production capacity of 10,000 barrels per day.
"The suicide terrorist attack did not result in any loss of life or damage to the refinery or gas production unit in Marib, whereas both suicide attackers were killed on site," it said.
WAR ON TERRORISM
The foiled attacks were the first on an energy target in Yemen since the 2002 bombing of the French oil supertanker Limburg off the coast, which al Qaeda claimed responsibility for.
Yemen -- which produces 400,000 bpd of crude and is estimated to have exported 333,000 bpd last year -- is due to hold presidential and municipal elections on Wednesday which long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh is expected to win.
Militant attacks in Yemen include the suicide bombing in 2000 of the U.S. warship Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States the following year, the Arab country joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism. An official statement said Friday's foiled attacks would not deter Yemen from "continuing its meticulous efforts to combat terrorism and confront the dark terrorist forces".
In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has also been battling al Qaeda, suicide attackers tried to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant in February.
Yemen, on the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has been widely seen in the West as a haven for Muslim militants, including al Qaeda supporters.
Western diplomats say some of the militants are war veterans who fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many are protected by powerful tribal leaders in mountain regions outside the central government's control.
(Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Diala Saadeh in Dubai)