- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

CAIRO — A videotape of a blindfolded American hostage in Saudi Arabia was shown yesterday on an Islamic Web site and his abductors threatened to kill him unless Saudi authorities free al Qaeda prisoners within three days.

Paul Johnson, 49, of Stafford Township, N.J., was abducted Saturday by a group calling itself al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The organization is thought to be headed by al Qaeda’s chief in the kingdom, Abdullah Aziz al-Moqrin, who was identified as the speaker on the tape.

“My name is Paul Marshall Johnson Jr.,” the seated hostage says in the tape, an elaborate tattoo on his left shoulder. “I am an American. … I work on Apache helicopters.”

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.

The videotape was posted on the Web site on the same day Saudi Arabia’s ruling crown prince warned Islamic militants that the kingdom planned to deploy more security forces than they had ever faced before.

“Be assured that the kingdom has enough men whom you haven’t seen so far, but within the coming few days, you will see them,” Crown Prince Abdullah told the militants, whose attacks have increased during the past three months. His remarks were televised.

The tape on the Web site showed a hooded man reading 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 — by Friday — to release “mujahideen” militants or it would kill the hostage.

Segments of the tape appeared to have been edited together and showed a blindfolded Mr. Johnson sitting in a chair with his profile to the camera. In one sequence, the hostage appeared to have a bandage around his neck or a gag that had been pulled down from his mouth.

The tape, which first was aired by CNN, also displayed his Lockheed Martin identification card.

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 or else we will sacrifice his blood to God in revenge for our Muslim brothers who have been liberally killed everywhere.”

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