U.S. Worker Is Killed in Saudi Arabia
A group claiming affiliation with Al Qaeda said it had killed an American and kidnapped another Saturday in Saudi Arabia, amid fresh intelligence reports that the terrorist network’s followers were planning similar attacks, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said.
“There’s a steady stream of information about activity and plotting,” said the official, who described the intelligence as an alarming development in the recent spate of attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia. “Given the fact that our top priority is the safety of Americans in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere overseas, we obviously view this development with the utmost concern.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli confirmed that gunmen had killed Kenneth Scroggs in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and that the U.S. Embassy there was investigating the possible kidnapping of an American who was reported missing Saturday.
U.S. officials in Riyadh and Washington said Scroggs worked for Saudi Arabia-based Advanced Electronics Co. The senior U.S. official said that Scroggs was shot at least three times in the back during an afternoon ambush in a parking garage and that the missing man disappeared about the same time nearby.
A group calling itself Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted late Saturday on the Al Qaeda-affiliated Voice of Jihad Internet site.
The statement exhorts the terrorist network’s followers to take Americans and Israelis hostage. It said efforts should be made to kidnap famous Americans and journalists to pressure the U.S. government into releasing Al Qaeda detainees.
The statement included a passport-size photo of a brown-haired man and a business card with the name Paul M. Johnson, and said the man’s captors would deal with him just as “the Americans dealt with our brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib” -- a reference to the abuse of Iraqi and Muslim prisoners by their U.S. captors. In the statement, the group said it planned to release a videotape, with its demands and a confession by the kidnapping victim.
The group also claimed responsibility for killing Scroggs.
“The mujahedin also managed to kill another American who is working as a manager in the same military sector where the hostage was working,” the statement said, referring to self-described Islamic jihadists, or “holy war” fighters. “The mujahedin monitored him and killed him in his house.”
Ereli, the State Department spokesman, said he could not comment on the identity of the apparent kidnapping victim or other details of the cases. He said U.S. and Saudi authorities were investigating them and were in contact with the families of the two men.
Scroggs was the third Westerner to be killed in Saudi Arabia in the last week. In recent weeks, there has been a marked escalation in attacks against Westerners and Western business interests throughout the Persian Gulf nation, amid vows by Al Qaeda followers to drive foreigners out of the kingdom.
Saturday’s incidents heightened concern among U.S. officials, who said Al Qaeda operatives were monitoring the activities of Americans working in Saudi Arabia, particularly those attached to companies helping the Saudi military.
“Those Americans who choose to remain here should exercise the utmost caution as they go about their daily life,” U.S. Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said in a statement expressing his condolences Saturday.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group claiming to have kidnapped Johnson, said in its statement that he was born in 1955 and that he was one of four experts in Saudi Arabia working on developing Apache helicopter systems.
“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.
A 49-year-old Paul Marshall Johnson Jr. with the same birth date as the one shown on the website lives in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Calls to his home were not returned Saturday night.
A spokesman for Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. said that Johnson was a Lockheed employee but declined to say what his job was, Associated Press reported. The spokesman also said Lockheed Martin was not aware of any employees who had been killed in Saudi Arabia.
Early today, a purported Al Qaeda videotape was posted on the Internet boasting about how the group’s followers had killed a U.S. citizen, Robert Jacob, in an ambush last week. Jacob worked for Vinnell Corp., a Virginia-based firm that has been helping train the Saudi National Guard. In the video, two gunmen are shown running toward a man -- who appears to be a Westerner -- as he falls to the ground in front of a garage.
Rita Katz, a terrorism consultant to the U.S. government, said Saturday that other attacks against Americans in Saudi Arabia were likely in the works.
Katz, of the SITE counter-terrorism group, has studied Voice of Jihad, which posted the statements, and said it had long been used by Al Qaeda officials to get messages to its followers. It also posts “how-to” tutorials on kidnapping Westerners, Katz said.
“The situation there is becoming more and more dangerous,” Katz said of Saudi Arabia.