boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

American held hostage, group says

Vows revenge, kills a 2d US man in Riyadh

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A terrorist group killed one American and abducted another in the Saudi capital yesterday, vowing to avenge alleged abuses of Iraqi and Muslim prisoners by US troops, according to a posting on an Islamist website.

The statement last night said the terror group would deal with the abducted American just as "the Americans dealt with our brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib."

The latest slaying and apparent abduction were the latest attacks in a campaign of anti-Western violence in the kingdom, believed to be aimed at driving out foreigners as a way to sabotage the vital Saudi oil sector.

The US Embassy identified the man killed yesterday as Kenneth Scroggs, 58, the third Westerner slain in the kingdom in a week. It did not identify the missing American, but the statement attributed to Al Qaeda showed a passport-size photo of a brown-haired man and a Lockheed Martin business card bearing the name Paul M. Johnson. It said he was born in 1955 and was from New Jersey.

The mobile phone listed on the card was switched off, and a call to a second phone number offered a voicemail message by a deep-voiced man who identified himself as Paul Johnson.

In addition, a videotape posted on the same website early today claims to show the killing of another American in Riyadh on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The message also said that Johnson is one of four specialists in Saudi Arabia working on developing Apache helicopter systems and that the American killed worked in the same industry. It did not identify the slain American but said he was killed at his house.

"Everybody knows that these helicopters are used by the Americans, their Zionist allies, and the apostates to kill Muslims, terrorizing them and displacing them in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq," the statement said.

It said Al Qaeda would release a videotape later to show Johnson's confessions and list its demands.

A Saudi security source said Scroggs worked for Advanced Electronics Co., a Saudi firm whose website lists Lockheed Martin among its customers. The office number on Johnson's business card was for Advanced Electronics.

According to the company's website, it does work for the Saudi military, as well as other government agencies and industries. The firm is jointly owned by companies in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, the site says.

On Tuesday, Robert C. Jacobs, a 62-year-old American who worked for the US defense contractor Vinnell Corp., was shot to death in his Riyadh home. The video that refers to Jacobs's killing shows a man, whose face cannot be seen but who seems to be a Westerner, fall to the ground in front of a garage as two men holding guns run toward him. The statement is signed "the voice of Jihad: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."

Same group claimed responsibility for a shooting and hostage-taking spree in the eastern Saudi city of Khobar on May 29-30. The attack at the hub of the Saudi oil industry killed 22 people, mostly foreign workers.

One week ago, gunmen killed a BBC cameraman, Simon Cumbers of Ireland, and critically wounded senior correspondent Frank Gardner as they were filming in a Riyadh neighborhood notorious for militant activity.

The United States has urged all its citizens to leave the kingdom, and the British Foreign Office has advised Britons against all nonessential travel to Saudi Arabia.

In Scroggs's neighborhood, the Malaz district of Riyadh, witnesses said three militants first shot him in the back as he pulled his car into the garage. The militants then moved closer and fired more shots.

An estimated 8.8 million foreigners work among 17 million Saudis in the kingdom, mostly in the oil sector, banking, and other high-level businesses.

Militant attacks against Westerners, government targets, and economic interests in the Saudi kingdom have surged in the past two months, despite a high-profile campaign against terrorists the government began after suicide bombings last year.

Crown Prince Abdullah, shown on Saudi television yesterday greeting visitors at a Riyadh palace, urged his guests to "inform me personally of anyone who has deviated from religion, attacked [it], or is an extremist."

"I pledge, God willing, . . . that they [militants] will not slip away from the hand of justice," Abdullah said.

US Ambassador James C. Oberwetter, in a statement reacting to yesterday's killing and other recent terrorist attacks, expressed his condolences to victim's families.

"Those Americans who choose to remain here should exercise the utmost caution as they go about their daily life," Oberwetter said. "I applaud Saudi Arabia's determination to bring an end to terrorism in the kingdom."

Speaking in London, Sheik Saleh bin Abdulaziz al-Sheik, the Saudi minister for Islamic affairs, said yesterday that despite the recent surge of attacks, terrorism in his country had not reached crisis proportions.

"If you look back through the efforts of the Saudi government in tackling terrorism, they have destroyed half of the terrorist force," Sheik told journalists at the Saudi Embassy in London.

"Our assessment of the situation is that it is controllable, but because there are sleeping cells and because the terrorists live in a crowded area, the Saudi forces do not want to hurt any of the local people," he said.

Terrorism specialists have noted that the militants are using several tactics, including shootings and ambushes where the gunmen do not die, rather than limiting themselves to suicide blasts or attacks under the cover of darkness.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives