American hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr. was beheaded by his terrorist captors in Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the Arab satellite network Al-Arabiya.
Fox News is reporting Johnson’s body was found in the capital Riyadh, and U.S. intelligence officials confirm he has been killed.
An image on an al-Qaida-related website shows Johnson lying on his stomach with his severed head resting on his back.
A statement on the Islamist website was signed by a group calling itself the Organization of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, reported NBC News.
“In answer to what we promised … to kill the hostage Paul Marshall after the period is over … the infidel got his fair treatment,” the statement said.
“Let him taste something from what Muslims tasted who were long reached by Apache helicopter fire and missiles.”
Johnson, employed by Lockheed Martin, had worked on Apache helicopter systems in Saudi Arabia.
“We will continue on this path in fighting the enemies of Allah,” the statement warned.
The kidnappers are believed to be led by al-Qaida’s top man in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin.
Johnson’s relatives held a vigil last night in his hometown of Eagleswood Township, N.J., as Saudi police searched for him three days after his capture.
In a videotape released Tuesday, his kidnappers threatened to kill him if the Saudi government did not free al-Qaida prisoners within 72 hours.
Johnson’s wife appealed to his captors on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network.
“Please! I want him to come back to see me. He didn’t do anything wrong,” Thanom Johnson said. “I’ve never seen him having any problems with the people here. Never.”
President Bush condemned the beheading, vowing “America will not be intimidated by these kinds of extremist thugs.”
Vice President Dick Cheney said the killers “have no shame, not a shred of decency, and no mercy. America will hunt down the killers, one by one, and destroy them.”
Bush, after speaking to troops in Fort Lewis, Wash., said Johnson’s murder “shows the evil nature of the enemy we face.”
“These are barbaric people,” he said. “There’s no justification whatsoever for his murder. And yet they killed him in cold blood.
“And it should remind us that we must pursue these people and bring them to justice before they hurt other Americans
“See, they’re trying to intimidate America. They’re trying to shake our will. They’re trying to get us to retreat from the world. America will not retreat. America will not be intimidated by these kinds of extremist thugs. May God bless Paul Johnson.”