- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — The family of an American businessman whose beheading in Iraq was shown on an Islamic militant Web site collapsed to the ground in tears yesterday after learning of the graphic videotape.

“I knew he was decapitated before,” said the father of the victim. “That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But I didn’t want it to become public.”

The video, posted yesterday, showed Nick Berg, 26, slain by an al Qaeda-affiliated group. The video said the killing was to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. Mr. Berg’s family said State Department officials on Monday had told them Mr. Berg’s decapitated 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 Suzanne,” Nick Berg said on the video before being killed. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sara. I live in … Philadelphia.”

The slaying recalled the kidnapping and videotaped beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 in Pakistan. Four Islamic militants have been convicted of kidnapping Mr. Pearl, but seven other suspects — including those blamed for slitting his throat — remain at large.

Mr. Berg’s mother said her son was in Iraq as an independent businessman to help rebuild communications antennas. Mr. Berg owned a communications equipment company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, she said.

The Bergs last heard from their son April 9, when he told his parents he would come home by way of Jordan. Suzanne Berg said that 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.”

Mr. Berg had traveled several times to Third World countries to help spread technology, his family said.

He had previously traveled to Kenya and Ghana, where he had bought a $900 brick-making press for a poor village, the family said.

Michael Berg described himself as fervently antiwar, but said his son took the opposite view. “He was a Bush supporter,” Mr. Berg said. “He looked at it as bringing democracy to a country that didn’t have it.”

Michael Berg lashed out at the U.S. military and Bush administration, saying his son might still be alive if he had been allowed to leave the country on March 30, as he had originally planned.

“I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused,” he said. “I don’t think this administration is committed to democracy.”

Nick Berg spoke to his parents March 24 and said he would return home March 30. But he was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24. At some point during his 13-day detention, U.S. officials took custody of him, his father said, and he was not allowed to make phone calls or contact a lawyer.

FBI agents visited Mr. Berg’s parents in West Chester, Pa., on March 31 and told the family they were trying to confirm their son’s identity. On April 5, the Bergs sued the government in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military.

Mr. Berg was released the next day, and he told his parents he had not been mistreated. They did not hear from him after April 9.

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