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U.S. hostage's head found in freezer

Paul Johnson Jr. was beheaded by his captors in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi operation targeted suspected al Qaeda militants in Riyadh.
Al Qaeda
Saudi Arabia
Acts of terror

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- The head of slain American hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr., who was kidnapped and beheaded in Saudi Arabia last month, has been found in a freezer, a Saudi Interior Ministry official said.

Two suspected al Qaeda militants were killed during raids, the official added Wednesday.

Security forces found the head and a cache of weapons in a raid on a villa Tuesday night and it was positively identified Wednesday morning.

Saudi forces Tuesday night launched a major operation in Riyadh against suspected al Qaeda militants in the northern part of the capital. Along with the two deaths, three others were wounded and the wife of the fifth-most-wanted man in the kingdom was arrested.

A Saudi security source believes the presence of the head and weapons confirms the belief of investigators that the villa was the major base and logistical support center for the al Qaeda cell operating in the area.

It is not yet known if this was the location Johnson was held or killed.

An Interior Ministry communiqué provided a list of the materiel discovered where Johnson's head was found:

One SAM-7 rocket; two RPG rockets and a launcher; nine pieces of RDX plastic explosives; elements for homemade explosives including ammonium powder and nitrate; three high-explosive hand grenades; 11 other hand grenades; fuses and detonators.

In addition, 22 Kalashnikovs; 11 handguns; four rifles; more than 30,000 rounds of ammunition; cell phones and other communications equipment; prepaid calling cards; documents; video cameras; computers; and cash amounting to $96,080.

The SAM-7 rocket was seen in a recent terrorist video, the communiqué said.

Johnson, 49, was abducted more than a month ago.

Al Qaeda militants kidnapped Johnson while he was working as an engineer for Lockheed Martin in Riyadh, a job he had held for more than a decade, during which he had never expressed fear for his safety, his brother said Wednesday.

"If he was living in fear he would have relayed that message," said Wayne Johnson, who told CNN that he was seeking details about his brother's death from the Saudi Embassy in Washington Tuesday when he was arrested for disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly.

As for the raids, the Interior Ministry would not confirm that among the dead and wounded may be Saleh al-Oufi, the current leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.

But security sources said one of those killed in the shootout was Eissa al-Aushan. He was on the list of 26 most-wanted terrorists sought by the Saudi government. A security source described him as an ideologue for the group.

Al-Oufi's wife was arrested in the operation and three of his children were detained, the ministry said. Other women who were in the house also were detained, it said.

A former prison guard, al-Oufi is No. 5 on Saudi Arabia's list of most-wanted terrorists.

At the center of the cordon was what sources described as a major safe house, which contained light weapons and homemade explosives. Heavy exchanges of gunfire took place near the house, and al-Oufi's wife was arrested inside, the security sources said.

They said it is believed the raid disrupted the suspected terrorists as they planned an operation.

Security forces and other units had begun encircling the suspected militants in the King Fahd district when gunfire began. Residents there said the exchange of fire began around 11:15 p.m. and was intense for several minutes.

Police carrying automatic weapons and wearing flak jackets blocked off all streets in one portion of the district, measuring about one square mile.

More than 100 law enforcement vehicles -- including armored vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and trailers carrying portable floodlights -- flocked to the area, along with five busloads of security force reinforcements.

There is speculation that the operation was undertaken based on information gathered from the interrogation of some 61 people who have taken advantage of the government's offer of leniency for wanted militants.

The monthlong leniency offer expires Friday.

The government said the program exempts terror suspects from the death penalty in Saudi Arabia but not from civil suits by their victims' families.

In recent days, 27 militants from outside the country and 30 from inside Saudi borders have turned themselves in, the Interior Ministry said. The surrender of four others had been previously reported.

Of the 61 who have surrendered, two are said to be linked to al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. (Full story)

In a recent operation against suspected militants in the Saudi capital, Abdel Aziz Al-Muqrin, the self-proclaimed military leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, was killed in a shootout with security forces.

His death came June 18, hours after an Islamist Web site posted three photographs showing Johnson's beheaded body.

Al-Muqrin had threatened to kill Johnson unless the Saudi government released al Qaeda prisoners and Westerners left the Arabian peninsula.

Shortly after Al-Muqrin's death, al-Oufi was named as the al Qaeda chief in Saudi Arabia.

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