- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2004

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Nicholas Berg was remembered as adventurous and caring yesterday at a private memorial marked by heavy security at a suburban Philadelphia synagogue, friends and family said.

Mr. Berg, 26, whose beheading in Iraq was broadcast on an Islamic militant Web site, was an intelligent and outgoing man whose travels took him from abject poverty in Africa to perilous hot spots in Iraq, friends said.

“We take the murder of American citizens very seriously,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday. “I want to express my deepest condolences first to the Berg family. This barbaric murder of Nicholas Berg illustrates the kind of evil that we face in the war against terror. And the United States will pursue his killers and we will bring them to justice.”

Chester County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman said about 500 people attended the service, including Mr. Berg’s friends from high school and college, and past teachers. His father, brother and sister spoke, and the rabbi who presided over the ceremony read words written by Mr. Berg’s mother.

“You realized what an energetic and talented young man this was, and what a tragedy his death is,” said Mr. Dinniman, whose daughter was on a Science Olympiad team with Mr. Berg in high school. “On one hand, it was a solemn occasion in which you could hear a pin drop, but it was also a tribute done with poetry, humor and laughter.”

Bob Concordia, 66, of West Chester, said “there were some tears, but there were also some laughs. I left with a feeling that he was somewhat of a martyr.”

The Berg family had earlier urged curiosity seekers, politicians and media members not to attend the memorial. Police said they would turn away and, if necessary, arrest outsiders trying to attend.

“I’d like to see my brother buried in dignity,” David Berg said Thursday.

Police and sheriff’s deputies provided heavy security in and around the synagogue. Visitors were screened with hand-held metal detectors, West Goshen Police Chief Michael J. Carroll said.

Much of the world reacted in horror to Mr. Berg’s death and the grisly video that recorded it. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has a $10 million price on his head by the U.S. government, was the person shown decapitating Mr. Berg.

Questions continue to swirl around Mr. Berg’s time in Iraq. The family says his 13-day detention — either by U.S. military officials, according to the family, or Iraqi police, according to military officials — contributed to his death.

U.S. investigators spent at least part of that time trying to verify who Mr. Berg was and why he was in Iraq. Also, federal officials said they were looking into Mr. Berg’s association with a possible terrorist while a student at the University of Oklahoma in 1999. Mr. Berg was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Berg’s body was buried at Jewish cemetery outside Philadelphia in a private ceremony early yesterday, a family spokesman said.

Staff reporter Jerry Seper contributed to this report

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