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Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Saudi Attacks

13 June 2004 -- Al-Qaeda today claimed responsibility for yesterday's killing of an American contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the kidnapping of another American civilian contractor in the military sector.

The claim was made in a statement posted on the Sawt al-Jihad Islamist website. The message claimed Al-Qaeda militants had carried out both the killing and kidnapping yesterday to "avenge U.S. mistreatment" of Muslim prisoners in Iraq and at the U.S.-run military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The statement was signed "Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula." It identified the kidnapped American as 49-year-old Paul Marshal Johnson, a specialist on Apache attack helicopters who is from New Jersey. On the website, the group displayed Johnson's passport and a business card showing he worked for the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin as a systems engineer and manager. Lockheed Martin has confirmed that Johnson was one of their employees in Riyadh.

The U.S. Embassy has identified yesterday's shooting victim as Kenneth Scroggs. He was the third westerner to be killed by suspected Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia in a week.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah last night urged a group of visiting Saudi dignitaries at a palace in Riyadh to clampdown on Islamic militants. "I'm hoping [for help] from you and I repeat that if any word or news reaches you of any person who you sense has deviated -- deviated from religion or attacked religion or is an extremist. You must stop them and bring them to me personally," he said.

One Saudi man who witnessed yesterday's attack on the home of Scroggs described the killing as un-Islamic. "This is a crime. What we are seeing is not in the name of Islam," the man said.

A neighbor of Scroggs described him as a quiet American who never caused problems for other residents nearby. "He was our neighbor. We used to see him leave the house in the morning around 6:30 a.m. and he would come back in the afternoon. He is an American. He lived there with his wife. We never saw him do anything wrong or bad. We used to see him and his wife all the time. I don't think they had children and we never saw anything bad from him. We never heard any noises. He has been our neighbor for about two years now. He was about 55 years old and they never had any
visitors. They were living by themselves and were very quiet neighbors. He got killed in the afternoon and I don't think he had any enemies. He didn't look like a guy who has enemies. I don't know why he was killed. It seems like a pointless killing," the neighbor said.

Yesterday's attacks appeared to be part of a campaign of anti-Western violence that has surged in Saudi Arabia during the last two months. Analysts say the wave of violence say is aimed at disrupting the international oil market by driving foreign workers out of the world's biggest oil producing country and stirring up fears about whether the kingdom can meet its oil production pledges.

An estimated 8.8 million foreigners work among 17 million Saudis in the kingdom. Many of the foreign workers from Western countries are employed in the oil sector, banking, or other high-level businesses.

In London, Saudi Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz al-Sheikh has been attempting to ease the concerns of jittery oil traders. Despite the growing wave of anti-Western violence, al-Sheikh told journalists last night that terrorism in Saudi Arabia has not reached crisis proportions. Al-Sheikh concluded that the situation is controllable, but that Saudi forces have held back on attacking terrorists who live in crowded areas because innocent Saudi citizens could be hurt.