The grieving family of Paul Johnson, the US military contractor beheaded by Saudi extremists last week, was still awaiting word on the whereabouts of his body yesterday even as Saudi security forces claimed a major victory against al-Qa’ida with the killing of four of Mr Johnson’s alleged abductors.
A number of troubling questions have begun to surface about the events surrounding Mr Johnson’s grotesque killing last Friday. Where was the body, which Saudi authorities claimed his abductors were in the process of dumping when they were ambushed and shot dead shortly after the murder?
How come the security forces were unable to find the kidnap gang for six days, then tracked them down hours after the murder was carried out? Is it possible as a jihadi website alleged yesterday that members of the security forces were somehow in cahoots with al-Qa’ida?
None of these questions was addressed in the official statements from the Saudi leadership, which focused instead on the dead al-Qa’ida militants and the arrest of 12 other suspected al-Qa’ida sympathisers.
Police were continuing their search for Mr Johnson’s body and the militants involved in his death. Armoured vehicles and a helicopter sealed off three neighbourhoods of the Saudi capital yesterday, searching any cars that tried to leave.
Police cars and armoured vehicles and a large contingent of emergency forces filled the area, and blockades were set up at all the entrances to the al-Malaz district. Witnesses said they saw shooting between suspects and police before some men fled on foot, seeking refuge in a house. It is the same area where Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, believed to be the leader of al-Qa’ida in Saudi Arabia, and three other militants were killed in a shootout with Saudi security forces on Friday.
Another dead militant, Turki al-Muteiri, was said by the Interior Ministry to be one of the gunmen who escaped after a bloody siege of a residential compound in the oil city of Khobar last month.
A third, Ibrahim al-Dreihim, was accused of helping to prepare a suicide bombing on a Riyadh residential compound last November. The fourth, Faisal al-Dakheel, was suspected of involvement in several murders including that of a US citizen in Riyadh.
King Fahd said yesterday that the attackers would not succeed in their aim to harm the Saudi kingdom. “The perpetrators of these attacks aimed at shaking stability and crippling security and it is a far-fetched aim, God willing,” he said in a speech to the advisory Shura Council. “We will not allow this destructive bunch, led by deviant thought, to harm the security of this nation or to affect its stability.”