Video Threat: 72 Hours To Live

"My name is Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.," the hostage, pictured, said in the video. "I am an American. ... I work on Apache helicopters."
CBS
An Islamic Web site showed videotape Tuesday of a blindfolded American hostage in Saudi Arabia, and said abductors threatened to kill him within 72 hours unless Saudi authorities free al Qaeda prisoners.

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 kingdom, Abdullah-aziz al-Moqrin.

In the video, a blindfolded man is seen, his head and jaw heavily bandaged. His words are slurred as he states his name, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart. He gives his name as Paul Marshal Johnson Jr.

Then a hooded man believed to be the head of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia speaks on the tape, and the threat is clear, reports Stewart. As he was reading, a subtitle on the screen identified him as al-Moqrin.

"If the tyrants of the Saudi government want their American prisoner released they must release our Mujahedeen prisoners within 72 hours from the time of this communique or we will seek God's approval by shedding his blood," he says.

His statement was similar to a printed message on the Web site that carried the name of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It said the group gave Saudi authorities 72 hours to release "mujahadeen" militants or it would kill the hostage.

The tape showed Johnson sitting in a chair with his profile to the camera, a large tatoo on his left arm. It displayed his Lockheed Martin identification card. Johnson was employed by Lockheed Martin and worked on Apache helicopters.

"I hope he is handling it. My father is a very intelligent man and I hope he is handling it," said Johnson's son Paul Johnson III.

There was no immediate confirmation that the man in the videotape was the same Paul Johnson kidnapped Saturday by al Qaeda followers, but he resembles pictures released of Johnson and the al Qaeda organization which released the tape is the same which earlier claimed responsibility for his abduction.

It is also the same group which claimed credit for a string of other attacks in Saudi Arabia on western workers, including — a hostage taking attempt in Khobar which left 22 people dead last month.

Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to the Saudi government, said shortly after the video appeared that the kingdom would consult with the Bush administration about how to proceed, but Riyadh like Washington has a strict no-negotiation policy.

"We don't negotiate with terrorists. We don't negotiate with hostage-takers," al-Jubeir said in an interview on CNN.

Al-Jubeir denounced the hostage-takers, but said it was premature to be able to verify any of the information on the video, saying, "We can't simply go with what appears on Web sites."

"It shows the cruel and inhumane face of the enemy we're dealing with," al-Jubeir said.

The statement on the Web site says the holy warriors of the Arabian peninsula's Fallujah Brigade has "hit" the engineering team that "oversees the development of the American Apache helicopter that attacks Muslims in Palestine and Afghanistan."

It says: "The Fallujah Brigade has killed the director of this team and kidnapped one of its engineers, Paul Johnson, and if the tyrannical Saudi government wants their American master to be released, then they have to release our holy warriors that are held in Ha'ir, Ruweis and Alisha prisons within 72 hours of this statement's date."

The day Johnson was seized, Islamic militants shot dead another American, Kenneth Scroggs, from Laconia, N.H., in his garage. Scroggs was the third Westerner killed in a week, after the shooting death of an Irish cameraman for the British Broadcasting Corp. on June 6 and another American who was killed in his garage June 8.

Saudi security forces arrested a militant north of Riyadh on Tuesday as they stepped up their presence in and around the city in a hunt for Johnson's kidnappers.

Also Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's ruling crown prince warned Islamic militants that the kingdom planned shortly to deploy more security forces than they had ever faced before.

"Be assured that the kingdom has enough men whom you haven't seen so far, but within the coming few days you will see them," Crown Prince Abdullah told the militants, whose attacks have increased during the past three months. His remarks were televised.

Westerners in Saudi Arabia are responding to the attacks by moving to high-security compounds or even to Bahrain, and by pushing for the right to armed private guards, according to diplomats and real estate agents.

Western embassies in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, are negotiating with the government for a relaxation of the ban on private security guards carrying firearms, a Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Monday, CBS News Correspondent Shelia MacVicar reported on a video tape of another American hostage Robert Jacobs, who was apparently shot to death by Saudi insurgents who filmed the incident.

The tape was taken as a clear message from Saudi militants for westerners to leave the country immediately.