Accessibility links

Alleged Al-Qaida Leader Killed in Saudi Arabia  Following Beheading of US Hostage - 2004-06-18

Saudi security forces stormed a central Riyadh neighborhood in search of the terrorists who beheaded an American hostage. The security forces say the alleged Al Qaeda leader in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin was killed during the assault. The decapitated body of Paul Johnson was found in the Saudi capital Friday after pictures of his severed head and body were flashed on several Islamic web sites.

Saudi government spokesman Adel al-Jubeir says Mr. Johnson's brutal murder will not shake the government's resolve to hunt down and eliminate terrorist groups trying to destabilize the kingdom and attack U.S. interests there.

"If the intention of the criminals was to shake our resolve, they are mistaken. We are united as a nation and determined as a people to rid them from our midst," he said.

A Saudi terrorist group with links to Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the murder. The group used the internet to publicize their demands for the release of militants from Saudi jails in return for Mr. Johnson's freedom.

President Bush denounced the killing as cold blooded murder. "The murder of Paul shows the evil nature of the enemy we face. These are barbaric people. There's no justification whatsoever of his murder and yet they killed him in cold blood."

The U.S. State Department has advised Americans in the Saudi Kingdom to leave for their own safety.

Adel al-Jubeir, who is foreign policy advisor to the ruling Saudi royal family says that may send the wrong signal to the terrorists. "We believe that one of the objectives of the terrorists is to drive people out of Saudi Arabia. And so as a consequence, we believe that calls for withdrawing people from Saudi Arabia could inadvertently play into the hands of the terrorists."

Mr. al-Jubeir told a Washington news conference Mr. Johnson's murder and other attacks against U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia would not damage their long-standing relationship or their cooperation on the war against terrorism.

"Our two countries have engaged in very close coordination in this effort. There are American security personnel in Saudi Arabia who are working with their Saudi counterparts and they have been for the past year. So would imagine it is as extensive as you could find anywhere. We are working this as one team," he said.

During the past year, the Saudi government has intensified its crackdown on Islamic radicals after a series of deadly terrorist bombings and attacks against Western compounds.