Saudi king says al Qaeda militants defeated
RIYADH, June 7 (Reuters) A violent campaign by al Qaeda militants fighting US-allied Saudi Arabia has been defeated, King Abdullah was quoted as saying by Saudi newspapers published today.
''I can assure you that your country is well and the evil-doers are, thank God, defeated,'' the king said at his royal court before a delegation of visiting government officials yesterday.
''We say that they are finished now. As we have said before, we would drive them back whether it takes 20 years or more, but, God willing, they already have been,'' he said in comments carried by al-Riyadh daily.
Islamist activists allied to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group have been waging a violent campaign aimed at toppling the US-backed monarchy, which is also the world's biggest oil exporter, and expelling Westerners.
Officials say about 144 foreigners and Saudis, including security forces, and 120 militants have died in attacks and clashes with police since May 2003, when al Qaeda suicide bombers hit three Western housing compounds in Riyadh.
In February they tried to attack the world's largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq, but analysts say that in the face of tough Saudi security policies backed by Western intelligence agencies, the campaign has run out of steam for the moment.
REUTERS SHB VV1451