FBI: Berg Refused Flight Home Before Murder
FBI: Berg Refused Flight Home Before Murder
Family Of Pa. Man Disputes Government's Assertion It Never Detained Him
POSTED: 7:39 a.m. EDT May 12, 2004
UPDATED: 6:00 p.m. EDT May 12, 2004
WASHINGTON -- An American civilian who was beheaded in a grisly video posted on an al-Qaida-linked Web site was warned repeatedly to leave Iraq, an FBI official said Wednesday. The official said Berg turned down a State Department offer to be flown home.
Berg's father, Michael Berg, places some of the blame for his son's gruesome death at the feet of the U.S. government, which, he says, held the 26-year-old in custody during a time he would have returned home to the Philadelphia area.
Michael Berg says his son was held with no access to a lawyer and "no due process," although Nick Berg never complained of being mistreated.
The government disputes Michael Berg's account, saying Nick Berg was held by Iraqi police and merely questioned by the FBI.
Michael Berg says being held by Iraqi police is the same thing as being held by American authorities. He said the Iraqi police do what the FBI tells them to do.
"Who do they think they're kidding?" he said.
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said as far as he knows, Berg was never "under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces." Asked for details about Berg's last weeks in Iraq, Senor said officials are trying to "piece all this together."
A senior FBI official said Berg, a telecommunications business owner who went to Iraq alone to help rebuild by building communications antennas, was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul on March 24 and was released April 6. His body was found Saturday on an overpass in Baghdad.
FBI agents interviewed Berg three times while he was in custody, advising him to leave the country because it was too dangerous for unprotected civilians.
A U.S. consular spokeswoman said that a few days after his release, Berg declined an offer to be flown home, saying he planned to go to Kuwait and call his family in Pennsylvania.
Nick Berg's mother said the family didn't hear from him until April 9. She said they learned from the U.S. government of his beheading long before the news hit international media. But, she said, family members cried when they learned the executioners taped the murder.
Michael Berg and his two other children fell to the ground outside their West Chester, Pa., home after learning a video of Nick Berg's killing was on the Internet.
Killers Cite Iraqi Prisoner Abuse
The executioners said Berg was killed in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
Michael Berg said his son's killers probably knew he was Jewish.
The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit.
"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Suzanne," he said on the video before being killed. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sara. I live in ... Philadelphia."
After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and cutting off his head with a large knife. They then held the head out before the camera.
The video also contained threats against President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
The video bore the title "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American." It was unclear whether al-Zarqawi -- an associate of Osama bin Laden -- was shown in the video, or was claiming responsibility for ordering the execution.
The clip showing his death was reminiscent of the 2002 videotaped murder of reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, for which four Islamic militants have been convicted.
As the White House reacts with outrage to the beheading of the 26-year-old American hostage in Iraq, people who knew Nick Berg said they have fond memories.
In West Chester, neighbor Bruce Hauser said he's devastated. And Berg's former high school principal said the slain man was a credit to his school.
Michael Di Bartolomeo he was always impressed with Berg's enthusiasm.
Friends remember him as a dedicated weight lifter and amateur comedian.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Berg's beheading shows "the true nature of the enemies of freedom." He promised that the killers will be hunted down.
Media Outlets Won't Show Video
Most media outlets say the segment of video is too gruesome to air.
Several networks showed still photos of a frightened Nick Berg surrounded by five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks. Some showed a clip of Berg speaking. None showed the actual beheading.
A spokesman for the Arabic-language satellite network Al-Jazeera said showing the actual beheading was "out of the realm of decency."
Associated Press Television News distributed video of the full beheading to its 500 worldwide members. The video was preceded by a printed warning that lasted a full minute: "Warning! Man is beheaded on camera, extremely graphic footage."
American Muslims Denounce Beheading
A Washington-based Muslim advocacy group is condemning the beheading as a "cold-blooded murder."
Rabiah Ahmed of the Council for American-Islamic Relations said Muslims are especially horrified that Nick Berg's killers shouted "God is great!" and claimed to be acting in the name of Islam.
The militants are shown on the Internet declaring that "the dignity of the Muslim men and women" abused by U.S. troops in an Iraqi prison cannot be "redeemed except by blood and souls."
Ahmed said Berg's beheading was "in opposition with what Islam stands for." She added that American Muslims wish to extend their prayers, condolences and support to Berg's family.
Senators Express Shock
Senators are stunned at the beheading of Berg.
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania called it "subhuman conduct."
Pennsylvania's other senator, Rick Santorum, called the killing an "outrage to the civilized world." He said it is a "perfect example" of why the war on terrorism is so important.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia said senators "are in a virtual state of shock" about the beheading.
It recalled earlier concerns that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners could lead to retaliation against Americans.