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|Nicholas Evan Berg|
April 2, 1978|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
|Died||May 7, 2004
|Cause of death||Beheading|
Nicholas Evan "Nick" Berg (April 2, 1978 – May 7, 2004) was a Jewish American businessman who went to Iraq after the US invasion of Iraq. He was abducted and later beheaded according to a video released in May 2004 by Islamist militants in response to the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal involving the United States Army and Iraqi prisoners. The CIA claimed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi personally beheaded Berg.
Early life and education
Berg was a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he owned his own company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. He inspected and rebuilt communication antennae, and had previously visited Kenya and Uganda on similar projects.
Berg attended Henderson High School in West Chester, where he received a diploma in 1996. Berg attended four universities: Cornell, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Oklahoma. While at the University of Oklahoma, according to Nickberg.org, Berg developed a "paper brick" that was to be the precursor to his "Bovl Block" pressed construction blocks. He once traveled to Kitende, Uganda to help a village, by among other things teaching villagers how to make Bovl Blocks, a modular concrete block Berg invented for use in tower construction where steel is not readily available or is cost-prohibitive. In addition, Berg set up a subsidiary of his company, Prometheus Tower Services, Inc., in Kenya.
Travels and detention
Berg first arrived in Iraq on December 21, 2003, and made arrangements to secure contract work for his company. He also went to the northern city of Mosul, visiting an Iraqi man whose brother had been married to Berg's late aunt. Leaving on February 1, 2004, he returned to Iraq on March 14, 2004, only to find that the work he was promised was unavailable. Throughout his time in Iraq, he maintained frequent contact with his family in the United States by telephone and e-mail.
Berg had intended to return to the United States on March 30, 2004, but he was detained in Mosul on March 4, 2004 by Iraqi police at a checkpoint. His family claims he was turned over to U.S. officials and held for 13 days without access to legal counsel. FBI agents visited his parents to confirm his identity on March 31, 2004, but he was not immediately released. After his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5, 2004, claiming that he was being held illegally, he was released from custody. He said that he had not been mistreated during his confinement. The U.S. maintains that at no time was Berg in coalition custody, but rather that he was held by Iraqi forces. The Mosul police deny they ever arrested Berg, and Berg's family has turned over an email from the U.S. consul stating "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul." According to the Associated Press, Berg was released from custody on April 6, 2004 and advised by U.S. officials to take a flight out of Iraq, with their assistance. Berg is said to have refused this offer and traveled to Baghdad, where he stayed at the Al-Fanar Hotel. His family last heard from him on April 9, 2004. Berg had his last contact with U.S. officials on April 10, 2004 and did not return again to his hotel after that date. Berg was interviewed for filmmaker Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore chose not to use the footage of his interview with Berg, but instead shared it with Berg's family following his death.
Berg's family became concerned after not hearing from him for several days. Although a U.S. State Department investigator looked into Berg's disappearance, official government inquiries produced no leads. Berg's family, frustrated with what they say was a lack of action by the U.S. government, also hired a private investigator and contacted both their Congressional delegation and the Red Cross in search of information.
Berg's body was found decapitated on May 8, 2004, on a Baghdad overpass by a U.S. military patrol. Berg's family was informed of his death two days later. Military sources stated publicly at that time that Berg's body showed "signs of trauma", but did not disclose that he had been decapitated.
On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant group Muntada al-Ansar posted a video with the opening title of "Abu Musa'b al-Zarqawi slaughters an American" (Arabic: ابو مصعب الزرقاوي يذبح امريكي), which shows Berg being decapitated. Al-Zarqawi had an association with the jihadist group Al-Qaeda, as does Muntada al-Ansar. The video is about five and a half minutes long.
Berg is seen in the video wearing an orange jumpsuit. He identifies himself: "My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia."
The video shows Berg surrounded by five men wearing ski masks and shemaghs. A lengthy statement is read aloud. The masked men then converge on Berg. Two of them hold him down, while one decapitates him with a knife. A scream can be heard as men shout "Allahu Akbar". After the head is severed, one of the men displays the head to the camera, then lays it down on the decapitated body.
On May 13, 2004, news outlets quoted a CIA source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that a voice analysis of the tape has led the agency to conclude that the masked man who reads the statement and carries out the killing is "with high probability" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
During the video, the man reading the statement threatens further deaths: "We tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way." The video further threatens U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Encounter with Zacarias Moussaoui
On May 14, 2004, it was revealed that Nick Berg had been investigated during the U.S. government's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. Berg's email address had been used by Moussaoui prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks. According to Berg's father, Nick Berg had a chance encounter with an acquaintance of Moussaoui on a bus in Norman, Oklahoma. This person had asked to borrow Berg's laptop computer to send an email. Berg gave the details of his own email account and password, which were later used by Moussaoui. The FBI found that Berg had no direct terrorism connections or direct link with Moussaoui.
Arrests and confessions
On May 14, 2004, citing "Iraq Sources", Sky News reported that four people had been arrested for the murder. Two were later released after questioning.
On August 5, 2004, Le Nouvel Observateur published a feature story by Sara Daniel detailing her meeting with one Abu Rashid, a leader of the mujahadeen council in Fallujah. He claims that he killed Nick Berg, Kim Sun-il and Iraqis who collaborated with the American forces. He also states that they attempted a prisoner exchange with Berg and were rebuffed by the U.S. government.
- "World | Middle East | 'Zarqawi' beheaded US man in Iraq". BBC News. May 13, 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- "SMH.com.au". SMH.com.au. 29 May 2004. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- [dead link]
- E-mail from consul confirms Berg was in U.S. military hands, WKRN
- Moore interviewed Berg for "Fahrenheit", Salon (magazine), May 27, 2004
- http://www.al-ansar.biz - website where decapitation video was first posted, now offline. See Internet Archive versions
- Berg's encounter with 'terrorist' revealed, CNN, May 14, 2004
- "Reportages: Sara-Daniel.com". Mapage.noos.fr. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
- Hayes, Jonathan. "Second Opinion." New York Magazine. "A New York City medical examiner watches the video of Nick Berg’s beheading and wishes he’d looked away."
- Nick Berg Memorial and Nick Berg Initiative, Inc.
- Who killed Nick Berg? - The Sydney Morning Herald (May 29, 2004)
- What happened to Nick Berg? - The Baltimore Chronicle (June 7, 2004)
- Questions Surround Slain American in Iraq - The Guardian Unlimited (May 12, 2004)[dead link]
- Berg beheading: No way, say medical experts The Asia Times (May 22, 2004)
- Berg's encounter with 'terrorist' revealed - CNN (May 13, 2004)
- Berg, Al Qaeda linked before - The New York Daily News (May 14, 2004)
- Berg Met With Shady Iraqi The Philadelphia Daily News (May 17, 2004)
- Berg Had Been Advised to Leave Iraq - Associated Press news story
- Who killed Nick Berg?
- A Father's Day Message, Both Parties Have Betrayed America By Michael Berg, CounterPunch.
- Father of Beheaded Iraq Hostage Blames Bush Administration For Son's Death - Interview by Democracy Now! on August 24, 2004.