DUBAI (Reuters) – An Islamist web site showed a videotape Tuesday of an al Qaeda-linked group beheading an American and vowing more executions as revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
The poor quality tape showed a man sitting on the floor with five masked men behind him. After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed the bound man to the floor, cutting off his head and holding it aloft.
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape carried on Muntada al-Ansar Islamist Web site.
On the tape, the man identified himself as Nick Berg before the execution.
“My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael…I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah,” said the man, who was shown bound and seated in a chair in the poor quality tape carried on Muntada al-Ansar Islamist Web site.
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape in which masked men said the execution was revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Photographs shown around the world of naked Iraqi prisoners stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad have provoked international anger and become a serious setback to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both apologized and pledged to punish those responsible but both governments have come under pressure for senior ministers to be held responsible for the abuse.
CAIRO, Egypt – A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed a group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading an American civilian in Iraq, saying the death was revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit — similar to a prisoner’s uniform — who identified himself as Nick Berg, a U.S. contractor whose body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday.
“My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan,” the man said on the video. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in … Philadelphia.”
After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great.” They then held the head out before the camera.
Berg was a small-business owner from the Philadelphia suburbs, his family said Tuesday.
“For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused,” one of the men read from a statement.
“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.”
The video bore the title “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American.” It was unclear whether al-Zarqawi — a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden — was shown in the video, or was claiming responsibility for ordering the execution.
Internet site has carried previous statements
The Web site on which the video was posted is known as a clearing house for al-Qaida and Islamic extremist groups’ statements and tapes.
The family of Berg, 26, of West Chester, Pa., said they were informed by the U.S. State Department on Monday that Berg was found dead near a highway overpass in Baghdad.
Berg’s mother, Suzanne Berg, said her son was in Iraq as an independent businessman to help rebuild communication antennas. He had been missing since April 9, she said.
“He had this idea that he could help rebuild the infrastructure,” she said.
The U.S. military Tuesday said an American civilian was found dead in Baghdad, but did not release his identity. State Department spokeswoman Susan Pittman said she couldn’t release the name of the dead American, but said she not aware of more than one civilian found dead in recent days.
The military said there were signs of trauma to the body. Suzanne Berg said she was told her son’s death was violent but did not want to discuss details.
Berg, who was in Baghdad from late December to Feb. 1, returned to Iraq in March. He didn’t find any work and planned again to return home on March 30, but his daily communications home stopped on March 24. He later told his parents he was jailed by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul.
“He was arrested and held without due process,” his father, Michael Berg, told the Daily Local News of West Chester recently. “By the time he got out the whole area was inflamed with violence.
The FBI on March 31 interviewed Berg’s parents in West Chester. Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia FBI office, told The Philadelphia Inquirer the agency had been “asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg’s purpose in Iraq.”
Parents last heard from son in April
On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military. The next day Berg was released. He told his parents he hadn’t been mistreated.
The Bergs last heard from their son April 9, when he said he would come home by way of Jordan, Turkey or Kuwait. But by then, hostilities in Iraq had escalated.
Suzanne Berg on Tuesday said she was told her son’s body would be transported to Kuwait and then to Dover, Del. She said the family had been trying for weeks to learn where their son was but that federal officials had not been helpful. “I went through this with them for weeks,” she said. “I basically ended up doing most of the investigating myself.”