- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

President Bush yesterday angrily denounced the beheading by al Qaeda terrorists of U.S. hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr., in Saudi Arabia, promising to pursue the “barbaric people” who killed the Lockheed Martin employee and “bring them to justice before they hurt other Americans.”

Told of the brutal murder as he prepared to board Air Force One after a speech to troops at Fort Lewis, Wash., Mr. Bush said the killing “shows the evil nature of the enemy we face,” adding there was “no justification whatsoever for his murder.”

Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin, who heads al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, is the top suspect in the Johnson killing. The terrorist network posted grisly pictures of his body on the Internet after they had cut off his head.

Later yesterday, the Saudi government said al-Moqrin was killed in a gunbattle with police.

“And yet they killed him in cold blood,” Mr. Bush said. “It should remind us that we must pursue these people and bring them to justice. … See, they’re trying to intimidate America. They’re trying to shake our will. They’re trying to get us to retreat from the world.

“America will not retreat. America will not be intimidated by these kinds of extremist thugs. May God bless Paul Johnson.”

Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in Washington, expressed that government’s sorrow yesterday, saying during a press conference, “We did everything we could to find him. We are deeply sorry that it was not enough.”

Mr. Johnson was kidnapped last week by al Qaeda terrorists, who threatened to kill him if the Saudi government refused to release terrorists it held in custody. They carried out that threat when the deadline passed.

Vice President Dick Cheney also condemned the murder, saying the terrorists who killed Mr. Johnson “have no shame, not a shred of decency, and no mercy. America will hunt down the killers, one by one, and destroy them.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described Mr. Johnson as an innocent victim who was “just trying to help people and trying to do his job.” He said the killing “will cause us and, I’m quite confident, it will cause our Saudi colleagues to redouble our efforts to go after terrorists wherever they are trying to hide.”

The presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said, “My prayers and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Paul Johnson. Americans are united against the terrorists who committed this abhorrent act against an American civilian in Saudi Arabia.”

Mr. Kerry called for “the full cooperation of the Saudi government in tracking down these terrorists and destroying al Qaeda,” which he called “our nation’s highest priority.”

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said there was “no act so barbaric, no image so grisly that it will bend America’s will,” adding that the United States would not retreat or relent in its prosecution of the war on terrorism.

“Terrorists will not be negotiated with, they will be hunted. Today we saw evil, but one day soon, we will see this evil destroyed,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Johnson’s family. May God be with them all.”

Lockheed Martin’s Web site carried a message saying, “Paul was a valued and respected employee, who bravely carried out his duties, and the news of his loss is a shock to everyone in the Lockheed Martin family.”

Mr. Johnson’s Thai wife, Thanom Johnson, had pleaded for his release earlier yesterday on the Arabic television channel Al Arabiya. She said her husband “didn’t do anything wrong,” breaking down in tears. Other family members also had pleaded for his release.

Staff writer James G. Lakely in Fort Lewis, Wash., contributed to this article.

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