Anxious Wait for Family of American Kidnapped in Saudi Arabia
STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Relatives of an American contractor kidnapped in Saudi Arabia (search) huddled together in New Jersey to await news of his fate, while his son in Florida pleaded with his captors to release him, saying "It's not his fault we're over there."
A purported Al Qaeda statement, posted late Saturday on an Islamic Web site, included a passport-size photo of Paul Johnson Jr. (search) and a Lockheed Martin business card bearing his name. The statement threatened to treat Johnson as U.S. troops treated Iraqi prisoners — an apparent reference to abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Johnson's family in New Jersey was devastated, said Barbara Pagliughi, a home health aide for his 67-year-old mother.
"They don't know what's going on. They learned through the media," Pagliughi said. "Nobody came and contacted them. Nobody knows where he is, whether he's alive, if they've tortured him."
Johnson's son, Paul Johnson III, told NBC News he planned to head to New Jersey where his father's brother and sister also live.
"Let him go," Johnson III said, addressing the captors from his home in Florida's Space Coast where friends placed yellow ribbons on trees in the front yard. "It's not his fault we're over there. It's not his fault we had to go there. It was his job."
Johnson, 49, worked on the radar systems of Apache helicopters and had been scheduled to come back to the United States in June. However, the vacation was pushed back until the fall.
Lockheed Martin (search) released a statement Sunday that said: "We believe he has been kidnapped, but we have no information on his status or whereabouts. We will continue to work with U.S. and Saudi government and military officials and the family of Mr. Johnson to provide any assistance possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with Paul Johnson and his family."
In Stafford Township, Johnson's mother, Delores, and brother, Wayne, awaited word.
"I just don't want to hear bad news because I know they're sadistic," said Wayne Johnson, 48. "The more people know about it then maybe they can get him out safe."
Paul Johnson Jr., a former Air Force servicemember, moved from New Jersey to Florida in the early 1980s to work for Lockheed Martin. He had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade.
"My father ... has always been nervous about being there," Paul Johnson III told NBC News. "But over the years of being there, you pump your gas at the same place. You get your coffee at the same place. You just get into routines and I think that's just what happened to him."
He added, "I think we ought to pull everyone out of Saudi Arabia — all the civilians. They all ought to come home since it's not worth the money."
Pagliughi said she last spoke on the telephone with Paul Johnson Jr. three weeks ago. She also spoke with his wife, a native of Thailand, during the lighthearted call. She said the two were building a home in Thailand.
"They were talking about guitars," Pagliughi said. "He bought a bunch of guitars and she was complaining that he spent money on guitars and can't even play them."
Johnson's son, a drywall contractor, said he hadn't seen his father since 2000 but kept in regular touch with him through e-mails and telephone calls. Paul Johnson Jr. has never met his 3-year-old grandson, who was named after him.
"He's probably praying," Paul Johnson III said of his father. "He's probably wondering how he got himself in this situation and wondering how he can get himself out of it."
Three Westerners have been killed in the Saudi capital in a week, including Robert Jacobs, of Murphysboro, Ill., who was killed in his parking garage Tuesday. Several Islamic Web sites were carrying links to a videotape — purportedly from Al Qaeda — that claims to show Jacobs being killed.
Jacobs, 62, worked for U.S. defense contractor Vinnell Corp.
A woman who would only identify herself as Jacobs' sister told The Associated Press over the telephone Sunday that the family knew about the video that purported to show his slaying, but she would not comment.