World leaders condemned the beheading of an American hostage by an al-Qaeda cell in Saudi Arabia, with US President George W. Bush calling the killers "militant thugs" and British Prime Minister Tony Blair saying the slaying was "an act of barbarism."
They were joined in their condemnation by Islamic leaders in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, but at least one said American policy was to blame for the killing of Paul Johnson.
Irfan Awwas, chairman of the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, a radical Islamic group, said yesterday that the killings would continue unless the US leaves Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The killing of innocent people is wrong," Awwas said. "But it is a result of the United States policies in the Middle East."
French President Jacques Chirac said he was "horrified" by the slaying of Johnson, denouncing the act as inhuman and shameful.
"I am horrified by the beastly methods that are very difficult to describe because they are at the complete opposite of everything we consider respectable as humans," Chirac said Friday at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
"I can only express the shame that we all feel faced with the behavior coming from human beings of this nature."
In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard called the slaying an "evil act without any conceivable justification.
"All decent people will be appalled at the callous beheading of the United States hostage in Saudi Arabia, Paul Johnson," Howard said in a statement yesterday. "It is a sickening reminder of both the face and behavior of international terrorism."
Johnson, 49, an engineer who had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, was kidnapped last weekend by militants who followed through on a threat to kill him by Friday if the Saudi kingdom did not release its al-Qaeda prisoners. An al-Qaeda group claiming responsibility posted an Internet message that showed grisly photographs of a beheaded body on Friday.
Hours later, Saudi security forces tracked down and killed Abdulaziz al-Moqrin, the leader of the terrorist group, and four other militants, according to Saudi and US officials.
However, a message later posted on an Islamic militant Web site denied that al-Moqrin had been killed.
A top Saudi Arabian official expressed his country's remorse for Johnson's killing and promised to find and punish those responsible.
"We did everything we could to find him," Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser Crown Prince Abdullah, said in Washington. "We are deeply sorry that it was not enough."
In Amman, the Jordanian government issued a statement condemning the "barbaric act" and calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. "Such heinous acts of terror do not represent the true values of Islam which is based on tolerance, compassion and peaceful coexistence."
Blair, also at the EU summit in Brussels, expressed "shock at such an act of barbarism."
"This shows the nature of the people we are fighting day in, day out, around the world," he said.
Bush, speaking in Fort Lewis, Washington, said the assailants were "trying to intimidate America."
"The murder of Paul shows the evil nature of the enemy we face," Bush said. "These are barbaric people. There's no justification whatsoever for his murder. And yet they killed him in cold blood."
The militants are "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," he said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "these kinds of brutal acts do not help anybody."
"My sympathies go to his family and loved ones, and I hope the perpetrators would eventually be brought to justice because we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior in today's world," he said at the UN headquarters in New York.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch called Johnson's slaying "a breach of the most fundamental standards of humanity.
"Holding someone hostage, and then brutally murdering him, is a heinous crime that no political cause can justify," said Joe Stork, Washington director of Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Division.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures