- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

BAGHDAD — The young American who was shown being decapitated on a videotape posted by an al Qaeda-linked Web site was never in U.S. custody despite claims from his family, coalition spokesman Dan Senor said yesterday.

Mr. Senor told reporters that Nick Berg, 26, from West Chester, Pa., was detained by Iraqi police in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Iraqis informed the Americans, and the FBI met with Mr. Berg three times to determine what he was doing in Iraq.

Mr. Senor said that to his knowledge, Mr. Berg “was at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of coalition forces.”

Calls to police in Mosul failed to find anyone who could confirm Mr. Berg was held there or why.

The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority controls Iraqi police and military.

Mr. Berg, a small telecommunications business owner, spoke to his parents on March 24 and told them he would return home on March 30, his family said.

But Mr. Berg was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24. He was turned over to U.S. officials and detained for 13 days, the family said.

FBI agents visited Mr. Berg’s parents in West Chester on March 31 and told the family they were trying to confirm their son’s identity.

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. Mr. Berg was released the next day. He told his parents he had not been mistreated.

Michael Berg blamed the U.S. government for creating circumstances that led to his son’s death. He said if his son had not been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave the country before the violence worsened.

He said his son was a practicing Jew and that “there’s a better chance than not” that his captors knew it. “If there was any doubt that they were going to kill him, that probably clinched it,” he said.

Asked for details about Mr. Berg’s last weeks in Iraq, Mr. Senor replied: “We are obviously trying to piece all this together, and there’s a thorough investigation.” But he said he was reluctant at this time to release details.

He said multiple U.S. agencies would be involved in the case and that the FBI probably would have overall direction.

Mr. Senor said that in Iraq, Mr. Berg had no affiliation with the U.S. government, the coalition or “to my knowledge” any coalition-affiliated contractor.

Coalition authorities said Mr. Berg’s body was flown to the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware yesterday. A private memorial will be held tomorrow, said Carl Goldstein of Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks funeral home in West Chester.

Yesterday, families and friends remembered Mr. Berg as a dedicated weight lifter and amateur comedian, who had a desire to help people around the world.

“Some of the hardest laughter I had at the fitness center were from the jokes he told,” said friend Nick Fillioe, a sports director at the West Chester Area YMCA.

Mr. Berg attended Cornell, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma, though he never earned a college degree. He helped set up electronics equipment at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. He made several trips to developing countries; in Ghana, he taught villagers how to make bricks, and returned emaciated because he gave away most of his food, his father said.

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