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U.S. Hostage Threatened With Death

June 16, 2004|From Associated Press

CAIRO — An Islamic website showed videotape Tuesday of a blindfolded American hostage in Saudi Arabia and said abductors threatened to kill him unless Saudi authorities freed 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 believed to be headed by Al Qaeda's chief in the region, Abdulaziz Muqrin, who was identified as one of those speaking on the tape.

"My name is Paul Marshall Johnson Jr.," the seated hostage says in the tape. "I am an American.... I work on Apache helicopters."

A U.S. official said the threat should be taken "very seriously" because the posting appeared to be credible and militants had used the site before. "It has been a good indicator in the past," the official said.

The tape also showed a hooded man reading a statement and holding a rifle. A subtitle identified him as Muqrin.

His statement was similar to a printed message on the website that gave Saudi authorities 72 hours -- by Friday -- to release "mujahedin," or the hostage would be killed.

Saudi security forces arrested a militant north of Riyadh on Tuesday as they hunted for those who had shot dead Kenneth Scroggs of Laconia, N.H.

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