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Nick Berg

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Nicholas Berg (about 1978 - about May 2004), an American businessman seeking telecommunications work in Iraq during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, was captured and beheaded by Islamist militants possibly linked to Al-Qaida in May 2004. His capture and killing was said to have been carried out to avenge abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison.

Berg, aged 26 at the time of his death, was a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he owned his own company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. He worked inspecting and rebuilding communication antennas and had previously visited Kenya and Ghana on similar projects.

Berg graduated from West Chester Henderson High School in 1996 and attended four universities: Cornell, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Oklahoma. He once traveled to Africa to help a village; in Ghana, he taught villagers how to make bricks, and returned in an emaciated state because he gave away most of his food: he returned with only the clothes on his back.

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Travels and Detention

Berg was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and of Bush administration policy; he traveled to Iraq in hopes of helping to repair damaged infrastructure. He first arrived in Iraq on December 21, 2003, and made arrangements to secure contract work for his company. Leaving on February 1, he returned to Iraq on March 14, 2004, only to find that the work he was promised was unavailable. Throughout this period, 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; however, he was detained in Mosul on March 24 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, but he was not immediately released. After his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5, claiming that he was being held illegally, he was released from U.S. 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. Following his release, Berg travelled to Baghdad, where he stayed at the Al Fanar Hotel. Still in Iraq, he last contacted his family on April 9, at which time he said that he intended to return to the United States via Jordan.


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 as a lack of action by the U.S. government, also hired a private investigator and contacted both the Red Cross and their Congressional delegation in search of information.



Nick Berg, in orange, seated, shortly before his decapitation by the five men standing over him.

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 on May 10. 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 Islamist terrorist militant group Muntada al-Ansar broadcast a video titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American", which shows Berg being decapitated. It is unclear whether al-Zarqawi is one of the men in the video. Both al-Zarqawi and Muntada al-Ansar are associated with the al-Qaida movement.

Berg is seen in the video wearing an orange jumpsuit. Berg identified 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."

Surrounded by five men wearing ski masks and head scarves, Berg, after reading his statement, was decapitated by a number of blows with a knife. On the video, a scream can be heard as the men around him shout "Allahu Akbar!" The men in the video also stated that Berg's killing was in direct retaliation for the abuse of prisoners by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison.

During the video, one of the men 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.

The video bears some similarities to the videotape showing the murder and decapitation of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. Like Pearl, Berg was Jewish, although it is uncertain whether his captors were aware of that.


Berg's family blamed the U.S. government, particularly the policies of the Bush administration that led to his arrest and detainment in April, for creating the circumstances that led to Nick's death. Michael Berg stated that if his son hadn't been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave the country before the violence worsened. [1] His father reportedly stated: "I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused. I don't think this administration is committed to democracy."

Others see Berg's slaying as a reminder of why the United States is waging its War on Terror. [2] White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan commented, regarding the incident: "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."

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WARNING: These links contain very graphic content which may be offensive to some readers.

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