Severed Head ID'd As U.S. Hostage

GENERIC Paul Johnson beheading hostage Iraq
The United States has confirmed that the head found in a Riyadh freezer this week is that of decapitated hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr., the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh said Friday.

"We did see the head on Thursday and have confirmed that it is the head of Paul Johnson, unfortunately," spokeswoman Carol Kalin told The Associated Press in a call from the Saudi capital.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said Wednesday that during a search of a militant hideout in Riyadh, their security forces found the severed head of Johnson. But the U.S. Embassy reserved confirmation pending their own identification of the head.

Johnson, a 49-year-old engineer who had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, was kidnapped June 12 by militants in Riyadh who followed through on a threat to kill him if the kingdom did not release its al Qaeda prisoners. An al Qaeda group claiming responsibility posted an Internet message that showed grisly photographs of a beheaded body on June 17. Later, video of the beheading was posted.

Hours after the pictures of the beheading appeared on the internet, Saudi forces shot dead Abdul Aziz al-Moqrin, alleged mastermind of Johnson's kidnapping and beheading.

The rest of Johnson's body has not been found.

Johnson was an engineer for Lockheed Martin who worked on Apache helicopters. He grew up in Eagleswood Township, New Jersey.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said Johnson's head was found after a search of one of three locations following the raid. Weapons, including an anti-aircraft SAM-7 missile, chemicals, video cameras and cash were among items seized from the location.

During the past year, Saudi Arabia has been rocked by suicide bombings, gunbattles and kidnappings targeting foreign workers. The attacks have been blamed on al Qaeda and sympathizers of the anti-Western terror network headed by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda wants to topple the Saudi royal family and replace it with its own Islamic government.