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Volume 18, Number 20, May 12, 2004

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American Hostage Beheaded

Claiming the act was a retaliation for American abuse of Iraqi prisoners Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq beheaded a live American civilian and vowed more killings in revenge for the "Satanic degradation" of Abu Ghraib prisoners. The entire proceeding was video-taped.

Nicholas Berg (26) was a jobless American from West Chester, Pennsylvania visiting the Middle East war zone allegedly in the hope of finding work. Berg had apparently visited the northern city of Mosul where because he had no affiliation nor credentials was arrested in March by a suspecting officer and lost in the prison chaos till past month's end when FBI officials cleared his release. Berg was last seen in a Baghdad hotel on 10 April. Accordingly his kidnapping by Ansar al-Islamists must have lasted nearly a month.

During his time as a hostage, Berg's captors claim they tried to negotiate with Coalition Provisional Authorities (CPA) in Iraq for an exchange of prisoners.

The beheading video created on 7 May 2004 is non-contiguous and appears to be recorded in several separate sessions using an amateur Hi-8 video tape recorder mounted on a light tripod from at least four camera positions. Lighting is incandescent and the camera aperture settings are wide causing a short focal depth. White balance is not achieved. The image is then poorly converted from tape to a (Windows Media) digital video format at 7kbs (kilobits per second), video sample size of 24 bits, and monaural audio 156kbs, audio sample rate at 8khz, 16 bit. Sound/Video sync is lost half way through the video. 

The Muntada al-Ansar Islamist Website linked this low-quality edited videotape showing a man dressed in orange overalls sitting bound on a white plastic chair in a bare room; then in the second scene (third camera position), knelt on the floor with five masked persons behind him. 

"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael... I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah,"
said the bound man, adding he was from Philadelphia. 

The person in the center of the five masked persons read a wandering and repetitious statement in Arabic urging Muslims to seek revenge after pictures were published of Iraqi prisoners being hazed by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison. 

"Nation of Islam, is there any excuse left to sit idly by", the speaker challenged as if making a call to arms, "and how can free Muslims sleep soundly as they see Islam being slaughtered, honour bleeding, photographs of shame and reports of Satanic degradation of the people of Islam, men and women, in Abu Ghraib prison?" 

The masked persons then held down the 26-year-old American on the floor and shouted "God is great" in Arabic above his screams as one of them, like a butcher, cut his head off with apparently considerable difficulty, using a large knife previously hidden in the killers' robe. The entire beheading takes nearly fifteen minutes although most of this time is edited out.

Abu Musab al-Zarkawi (real name is Ahmad Al-Khalayla) is the center person of the five, the man who read aloud a largely rhetorical political statement as bad as any in Ottawa's or Washington's electioneering and then cut off Berg's head. The statement which was read from a three-page script on 8.5 x 11 inch paper was signed off with the Zarkawi name.

A body found in Baghdad by a U.S. military patrol over the weekend was identified on Monday, 10 May, as Nick Berg before the videotape was released.

The translated version of Zarkawi's statement can be read in the May 2004 section of TWR's Backgrounder on Abu Musab al-Zarkawi.

American Hostage Murder

Warning: Graphic and very disturbing content. Video of American hostage (Nick Berg) beheading by Al Qaeda leader (allegedly by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi) in Iraq.

To view the original al Qaeda video of the Berg killing in streaming media for your own analysis you can open a windows media session by clicking this link or the above heading. Your computer must be equipped to run windows media player in embedded mode.

"This shows the true nature of the enemies of freedom," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. We will pursue those responsible and bring them to justice."

(see other recent articles about Abu Musab al-Zarkawi: 

  1. TWR18v18

  2. al Qaeda's European 2004 Victory,

  3. al Qaeda Attack Imminent), and

  4. Backgrounder: Ahmad Al-Khalayla (Abu Musab al-Zarkawi) 

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Publisher and Editor In Chief:
Micheal J. O'Brien
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