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Saudi Forces Find Head of U.S. Hostage


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By Fahd al-Frayyan

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi forces found the head of a U.S. hostage in a fridge at a militants hideout where they killed two wanted Islamists and seized weapons, including a surface-to-air missile, officials said on Wednesday.

They said the head of Paul Johnson, 49, who was killed by supporters of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last month, was found when security forces stormed a villa in Riyadh on Tuesday night.

Security forces also found a surface-to-air missile, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic rifles, pistols, hand grenades, ammunition, computers, cash and nitrates and aluminum powder -- used to make explosives.

This was the latest confrontation between government forces and al Qaeda supporters bent on toppling the pro-U.S. leaders of the world's biggest oil exporter.

One of the slain militants, Isa al Oshan, was on the list of 26 most wanted al Qaeda militants, the officials said.

Johnson, employed by U.S. helicopter gunship maker Lockheed Martin, was killed on June 18 after the expiry of a militant deadline for authorities to free Islamist prisoners. A videotape of his beheading appeared on the Internet.

An Interior Ministry statement said three other militants were hurt in the clash, which security officials said followed the gunmen accidentally detonating explosives in the house in the north of the capital.

The Interior Ministry said the shooting occurred in north Riyadh's busy King Fahd district, where security forces were investigating a house used by supporters of "the deviant and corrupt ideology" -- a reference to al Qaeda sympathizers.

They came under intense fire from gunmen armed with bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, said the ministry statement.

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