Saudi security forces  

 Picture: (AFP/File/Fahd Shadeed)
File picture shows Saudi security forces outside a villa used by alleged Al-Qaeda activists as a hideout in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia said it plans to put in the dock a total of 991 defendants in the first trials of so called Al-Qaeda suspects in the kingdom after more than five years of deadly violence.

"We have started to bring before the judiciary 991 people implicated in various incidents," Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz told the official SPA news agency late yesterday.

"Each case will be examined in stages," the minister said, without giving any date for the start of the trials, although an official said yesterday that the authorities were in the final stages of preparation.

Saudi Arabia has faced a string of attacks against Western targets and oil infrastructure since May 2003 and hundreds of suspected Islamist sympathisers have reportedly been arrested.

Giving a first-ever official toll, Prince Nayef said the wave of attacks had killed a total of 90 civilians — both foreigners and Saudis, and 74 members of the security forces.

Sapa-AFP