- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

Islamist militants badly harmed their own cause and sparked revulsion across the Muslim world with the videotaped beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg in Iraq earlier this month, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri said yesterday.

Although some Arab media outlets gave only low-key coverage to the execution, Pakistan and other Islamic states strongly condemned the act, Mr. Kasuri told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“It was absolutely unacceptable. No Muslim can tolerate this,” Mr. Kasuri said. “These people who have done it, whatever their cause may be, it has hurt that cause.”

U.S. officials think that al Qaeda operative Abu Musab Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden, wielded the knife in the videotape, wearing a black ski mask as he decapitated Mr. Berg, 26. The Pennsylvania contractor had gone to Iraq in search of business deals.

The video was shown on an Islamist Internet site May 11.

A narrator in the video said the killing was in retaliation for the abuse of Iraqi detainees by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. The speaker warned President Bush of more violence in Iraq and pointedly condemned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a “treacherous stooge.”

Mr. Kasuri said the killing of Mr. Berg was barbarous “regardless of the [prison] pictures that came out of Baghdad.” He said Islamic teachings hold that there is a “greater responsibility” to treat humanely someone held in custody.

“If you are a human being, you cannot but be revolted,” he said. “It simply does not reflect Muslim values.

“If you are trying to take advantage of the shock of the pictures, I just don’t think this would work,” he said. “I don’t agree that there was anybody secretly happy in the Islamic world with the beheading of a defenseless individual in this fashion.”

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