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American hostage beheaded in Saudi Arabia

From Wolf Blitzer

Saudi Arabia
Paul Johnson Jr.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda militants kept a pledge to kill their American hostage, posting three chilling photographs Friday on an Islamist Web site to prove they had beheaded Paul Johnson Jr.

"As we promised, we the mujahedeen from the Falluja Squadron slaughtered the American hostage Paul Johnson after the deadline we gave to the Saudi tyrants," said a statement on the Web site that has been translated from the Arabic.

"So he got his fair share from this life and for him to taste a bit of what the Muslims have been suffering from Apache helicopter attacks. They were tortured by its missiles."

Johnson, 49, worked on Apache helicopters in Saudi Arabia and had lived there for more than a decade.

The statement also warned the more than 30,000 other Americans living and working in Saudi Arabia that they are next.

"As for the Americans, and most importantly, the unbelievers and the criminals who are fighting Islam, this is a lesson for them to learn, for whoever comes to our country, this will be their punishment," said the statement.

Secretary of State Colin Powell reacted to early reports with a warning of his own.

"If these reports are true about Mr. Johnson, we of course totally condemn this action. It's an action of barbarism, an action that shows once again what the world is dealing with with these kinds of individuals who could behead somebody or murder somebody in cold blood, an innocent individual who was just trying to help people and trying to do his job," he said.

Powell went on to say, "It 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, wherever they're trying to hide, and to go after those who support this kind of terrorist activity."

For months, the State Department has urged Americans, most of whom work in oil-related fields, to leave the oil-rich kingdom.

Johnson spent the past 10 years in Saudi Arabia working for Lockheed Martin Corp., which issued this statement before its employee was confirmed killed:

"All we can say is we're very distressed, very disheartened, and are dealing with the family."

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry offered a reaction of his own. "This is a grotesque act that is a reflection of the challenges of the time," said Kerry.

Earlier in the day, there was a last-minute appeal from Johnson's wife on the Arabic language television channel Al Arabiya.

Noom Johnson said, "I would like to say when I saw his picture on the TV, I was very worried about him so much. I don't know what I can do for him. I stay in Riyadh by myself in the house. I want him to come back because I don't have nobody in here."

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