Live Video In Iraq
By Andrew Buncombe
and Justin Huggler
12 May 2004
Here To See The Pictures
A group linked to al-Qa'ida released a
video last night showing five of its members beheading an American businessman
in Iraq, in what it said was revenge for the abuse of prisoners at Abu
Ghraib jail by US troops. The man's body was found dumped in Baghdad.
video, posted on a website often used by the group, shows the men wearing
scarves and ski-masks and standing over the American before cutting
off his head with a large knife. The man identifies himself as Nick
Berg and is heard to scream as he is slain.
The release of the
video by the group, Muntada al-Ansar, will add to the already considerable
pressure facing the Bush administration as it seeks to deal with the
political fallout of the prisoner abuse scandal. It had been predicted
that the pictures of the abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners that
have been broadcast around the Arab world would make the perilous situation
in Iraq even more dangerous for US troops and civilians.
The forecast appears
to have been proved true by the release of the video entitled "Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American". The video claims
that Mr Zarqawi, a Jordanian national and a senior lieutenant of Osama
bin Laden, is the one who cuts off Mr Berg's head, though some reports
said intelligence officials did not believe the voice on the video sounded
The US has offered
US$10m (£5.6m) for information leading to the capture or killing
of Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadhil al-Khalayleh, saying he
was trying to build a network of foreign militants in Iraq to work for
Mr Berg's parents
from West Chester, a suburb of Philadelphia, confirmed that US authorities
had informed them their son's body had been recovered from an overpass
close to a highway in Baghdad on Saturday. Michael and Suzanne Berg
said they had been told their son had been decapitated but they had
no idea a video of the killing existed or would be released.
On the video, Mr
Berg, 26, who owned a communications equipment company and went to Iraq
seeking contracts to rebuild antennas, is heard saying: "My name
is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Suzanne.
I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in ... Philadelphia."
He is seen sitting bound on a white chair wearing an orange jumpsuit,
similar to those worn by prisoners in US jails. After he read the statement,
the masked men are seen pulling Mr Berg to one side and then putting
a large knife to his neck.
A scream sounds
as one of the men cuts off his head, shouting "Allahu Akbar".
The executioner then holds the decapitated head out in front of the
camera. A statement read out by one of the men on says: "For the
mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered
the US administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees
in Abu Ghraib and they refused.
"So 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. How can
a free Muslim sleep well as he sees Islam slaughtered and its dignity
bleeding, and the pictures of shame and the news of the devilish scorn
of the people of Islam - men and women - in the prison of Abu Ghraib?"
The execution recalls
the murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, who was
executed in Pakistan after being taken hostage by al-Qa'ida members
in January 2002. He too was beheaded and his body mutilated.
In Washington, the
State Department confirmed the body of a US citizen, identified as Mr
Berg had been found in Baghdad. The official said Mr Berg had no ties
to the military but offered no further details and did not comment on
the group's claim it had offered to exchange him for Iraqi prisoners.
Suzanne Berg said
the authorities had been of little help to her and the family had been
forced to hire a private investigator. "I went through this with
them for weeks," she said.
Michael Berg said
they had been told in advance their son had been decapitated. "I
knew he was decapitated before. That is preferable to a long and torturous
death. But I didn't want it to become public," he said. He blamed
the Bush administration for creating circumstances that led to his son's
He said that if
his son had not been detained for so long, he might have been able to
leave the country before the violence worsened. I think a lot of people
are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused,"
* The head of Iraq's
war crimes tribunal said yesterday that the US has pledged to hand over
Saddam Hussein and 100 other suspects to Iraqi authorities before 1
July if there is the will and facilities to keep them in custody. The
US has denied Salem Chalabi's claim, saying there had been no timeframe
set for handing Saddam back from his secret location.