U.S. hostage killed by Saudi captors

June 18, 2004 at 6:52 PM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 18 (UPI) -- Saudi kidnappers beheaded American hostage Paul Johnson Jr. and the leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia reportedly was killed while disposing of the body.

Shortly after Johnson's body was found in eastern Riyadh, Saudi Arabian security forces clashed with several al-Qaida members and a "number of terrorists" were killed, a Saudi diplomat told CNN. One of those dead was identified as Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, the leader of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi security sources told UPI Johnson, 49, was beheaded after his kidnappers said Saudi officials failed to fulfill their demands. Photos of Johnson before and after his execution were posted on a Muslim Internet site.

The Lockheed Martin Corp. employee was kidnapped Saturday in Riyadh. He helped maintain U.S.-built Apache helicopter gunships for the Saudi military.

His captors had threatened to kill him by Friday if the Saudi government did not release al-Qaida prisoners and order Westerners to leave Saudi Arabia.

Prominent clerics had urged the militants not to harm westerners.

"It is a great crime to kidnap those who feel safe among non-Muslims and their killing is a great treason, betrayal and meanness for which God's punishment is great," said Sheikh Ali Bin Abdul Rahman al-Hozeifi, the imam of Medina, at Friday prayers.

And Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah bin Hamid, the imam of Mecca, Islam's holiest shrine, told worshippers: "Any terrorist action targeting the faithful and those whose blood should not be spilled, be they Muslims or not, is a criminal act banned by Islam and contradictory to Sharia (Islamic law).

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