Paul Johnson Video
American Paul Johnson’s kidnappers issued a 72-hour ultimatum threatening to kill the hostage unless Saudi Arabia (search) frees Al Qaeda (search) militants, an Islamic Web site reported Tuesday.
The Web site also aired footage of Johnson blindfolded and sitting in a chair with his profile to the camera, a large tattoo on his left arm. It displayed his Lockheed Martin (search) identification card.
“My name is Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.,” the seated hostage says in the tape. “I am an American. … I work on Apache helicopters.”
Johnson, 49, of Stafford Township, N.J., worked for Lockheed Martin in Saudi Arabia.
He was seized Saturday by a group calling itself Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The organization is believed to be headed by Al Qaeda’s chief in the kingdom, Abdullah-aziz al-Moqrin.
The tape on the Web site, http://www.hostinganime.com/sout18/, showed a hooded man read a statement and holding an AK-47 rifle. As the man was reading, a subtitle on the screen identified him as al-Moqrin.
His statement was similar to a printed message on the Web site that carried the name of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It said the group gave Saudi authorities 72 hours to release “mujahadeen” militants or it would kill the hostage.
A U.S. official said the threat should be taken “very seriously” because the posting appears to be credible and militants have used the site before. “It has been a good indicator in the past,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to the Saudi government, said shortly after the video appeared that the kingdom would consult with the Bush administration about how to proceed, but Riyadh like Washington has a strict no-negotiation policy.
Al-Jubeir also said the current situation with the Islamic militants was not a crisis but a serious issue that the Saudi kingdom will be dealing with for some time.
“Their strategy is to try to sow fear in people’s hearts, and to panic, and to cause an exodus of foreign workers from Saudi Arabia, in particular Westerners,” he said.
“They are trying to scare foreign workers into leaving Saudi Arabia because they believe it will weaken the Saudi economy and consequently weaken the Saudi government, but they are mistaken.”
The statement on the Web site says the holy warriors of the Arabian peninsula’s Fallujah Brigade has “hit” the engineering team that “oversees the development of the American Apache helicopter that attacks Muslims in Palestine and Afghanistan.”
It says: “The Fallujah Brigade has killed the director of this team and kidnapped one of its engineers, Paul Johnson, and if the tyrannical Saudi government wants their American master to be released, then they have to release our holy warriors that are held in Ha’ir, Ruweis and Alisha prisons within 72 hours of this statement’s date.”
The day Johnson was abducted, Islamic militants shot dead another American, Kenneth Scroggs, from Laconia, N.H., in his garage. Scroggs was the third Westerner killed in a week, after the shooting death of an Irish cameraman for the British Broadcasting Corp. on June 6 and another American who was killed in his garage June 8.
Kevin Aylward observes that the terrorists are getting smarter about getting media attention:
Releasing a video of the kidnapped Johnson makes infinitely more sense than only releasing a Nick Berg-style execution video only. A video of his execution is not going to get much media exposure. A hostage video is sure to run on every cable news network every hour on the hour for days.
Joe Gandleman sees a familiar script playing out here:
As is now the custom, the threat comes on an Islamic website with photos of the all-but-condemned-to-death prisoner, who looks terrified and humiliated.. And it isn’t good news for Johnson or his family that it’s posted on a credible website.
In fact, what few are saying is this: unless he escaped (and a miracle like that did happen once) there is no way he is going to survive since there is no way the Saudi government is going to meet this demand — and the terrorists know it. So within three days there will likely be another Internet-aired bloodfest, method of massacre yet unknown. The bottom line is: the terrorists want and need to scare foreign workers out of the Royal Kingdom and you don’t sow fear by releasing a prisoner.
Stephen Green goes further, arguing that it’s likely Johnson is already dead.
Our attackers are not, by our lights, rational. They don’t kill to get what they want. They don’t kill to further their agenda. They kill for the sake of killing. They turn themselves into bombs to win Allah’s approval. They murder because they are holy and we are infidels and that’s just the way things gotta be.
Exactly right. Highly respected terrorism experts like Bruce Hoffman have made this distinction since well before 9-11; it’s amazing that most people are still singing from the “rational political actor” hymnal when analyzing the jihadists. Al Qaeda ain’t the IRA.
UPDATE (6/17): US firm spread hostage video
Video images of a US engineer taken hostage in Saudi Arabia, possibly by the al-Qaeda network, could have been put on the internet via a US firm based in California, Der Spiegel magazine reported on Thursday.
The video was released on Tuesday and shows relatively high-quality film of hostage Paul Johnson, who kidnappers from a group called “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” have threatened to kill by Friday.
The origin of the video was traced to Silicon Valley Land Surveying Incorporated, a California land surveying and mapping company, said Spiegel online, the internet service for the respected German weekly.
The magazine said that according to its research the move was the first time al-Qaeda had “hijacked” a website to broadcast its propaganda.
The network usually spreads its message through Islamist sites but this time, Spiegel maintains, hackers created a special file at the company’s web address at least an hour before global news agencies broke word of the video.
The magazine said that company chief Tim Redd had refused to comment.
In the video, the group had demanded that hundreds of Islamic militants being detained in Saudi Arabia be released within 72 hours.
The hostage, a 49-year-old aviation engineer, was shown blindfolded with a piece of white fabric and tape. He was wearing a red shirt torn in parts so a tattoo on his left shoulder was visible.
In a brief statement Johnson gave his identity, nationality and said he was working as an aviation engineer.
An armed man wearing a balaclava and a belt containing explosives then introduced himself as Abdel Aziz Al-Muqrin, leader of an “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” group.
He read a lengthy statement containing the threat to kill Johnson.
UPDATE (6/18) Reuters is reporting that Johnson has been beheaded.
UPDATE (7/21) CNN reports the Saudis have found Paul Johnson’s head in a freezer during a raid on al Qaeda.