Maintaining the security of oil and gas assets should be a priority in a region that depends on petrodollars to drive economic growth. The hostage crisis in Algeria brought to the fore the security issues facing the sector.
An important point to note is that In Amenas was a high-risk facility, with analysts and insurers stating that an attack within the vicinity had been a possibility for some years.
Despite the political tensions in the Middle East, terrorist attacks on energy installations are still rare. This is in no small part due to the role that many governments and operators take in security measures, intelligence gathering and preventative actions, such as training staff on how to react in these situations. However, there is a constant need to remain vigilant, especially now that a sabotage has successfully been perpetrated.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliate organisations have terrorist cells across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in countries such as Iraq. Furthermore, after an incident such as In Amenas takes place, radicalised individuals may also start to believe they can carry out similar strikes if they identify susceptible targets and if they can source arms and explosives.
Iraq has to deal with terrorist incidents on a regular basis and has worked hard to control these attacks with exclusion zones and a highly-trained police force. After a wave of serious incidents in 2004, the GCC has been able to contain such activity with its excellent intelligence networks and security controls. This success must be emulated.
The oil and gas industry is the beating heart of the Middle East economy and is the premier wealth creator for most countries in the region.
It is vital for every country to work together and share intelligence and personnel to help combat aggression from terrorists who are determined to wreak havoc upon an industry that provides financial security and political stability for the region.