Tape Shows U.S. Hostage Being Beheaded in Iraq
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; 5:00 PM
In a grainy video posted today on a militant Islamic Web site, Nick Berg -- an American businessman from outside Philadelphia -- is shown sitting on the floor in orange prison garb with five masked men behind him. After reading a statement saying they want to avenge the suffering of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers, the men behead Berg.
U.S. officials said they could not verify the authenticity of the tape, but his family confirmed that they had been told Berg had been decapitated and that his body had been found on a highway overpass outside Baghdad last weekend.
Berg's mother said the family had not seen the tape and were still trying to decide whether to view it. They had been having trouble accessing it because of a slow computer connection.
"I don't know if I want to see it. It's just so awful," Suzanne Berg said.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who was in Arkansas with President Bush, acknowledged Berg's death, the Associated Press reported. He told reporters, "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. It shows the true nature of the enemies of freedom. They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. We will pursue those who are responsible and bring them to justice."
The title of the video broadcast by the Web site said the execution was the work of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist leader with links to al Qaeda. Since the persons who attacked Berg were masked, it was unclear if Zarqawi actually wielded the knife or ordered the slaying.
Berg, 26, who disappeared April 9, came to Iraq in the hopes of winning a contract to help rebuild communications antennas destroyed during last year's invasion. He is the first U.S. businessman known to have been killed in Iraq. A Danish businessman feared kidnapped was found dead last month. After four civilian security contractors were killed and their bodies hung on a bridge in Fallujah, organizers of a business conference in Baghdad scheduled for April 5-8 canceled it.
The ever present violence in Iraq has stood in stark contrast to U.S. officials' optimistic calls for private companies to invest in the country. The U.S. Commerce Department during the past year has embarked on a three-continent road show to provide information about investment and reconstruction opportunities.
According to his family, Berg had gone to Iraq to inspect some radio towers that had been damaged during the war. Berg hoped to make a bid on behalf of his company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, to provide parts and repair services.
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