Thursday, May 13, 2004
'never in US custody'
frame grab taken from website video footage
shows a man, who identified himself as Nick Berg of
THE young American who was
decapitated on a videotape posted by an
al-Qaeda-linked Web site was never under US custody
despite claims from his family, coalition spokesman
Dan Senor said today.
Senor told reporters that Berg, 26, from West
Chester, Pennsylvania, was detained by Iraqi police
in Mosul. The Iraqis informed the Americans, and
the FBI met with Berg three times to determine what
he was doing in Iraq.
Senor said that to his knowledge, "he (Berg) was
at no time under the jurisdiction or detention of
The spokesman said Berg was arrested by the
Iraqi police in the northern city of Mosul on March
24 because the police
"suspected that he was
engaged in suspicious activities." Senor
refused to elaborate.
Berg was released April 6 and advised to leave
the country, Senor said. His body was found in
western Baghdad on Saturday.
However, calls by The Associated Press to police
in Mosul failed to find anyone who could confirm
Berg was held there or why.
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
Berg told his family that after he was detained by
Iraqi police, he was turned over to US officials
and detained for 13 days.
His father, Michael, said his son wasn't allowed
to make phone calls or contact a lawyer.
FBI agents visited
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 US military. The next day Berg
was released. He told his parents he hadn't been
His father, Michael Berg, said he blamed
the US government for creating circumstances that
led to his son's death. He said if his son hadn't
been detained for so long, he might have been able
to leave the country before the violence
"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."
for details about Berg's last weeks in Iraq, Senor
(left) 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.
"The US government is committed to a very
thorough and robust investigation to get to the
bottom of this," Senor said. "As I said, everybody
is shocked by the horrific images of this terrorist
He said "multiple" US agencies would be involved
in the Berg case and that the FBI would probably
have overall direction.
Senor said that in Iraq, Berg had no affiliation
with the United States government, the coalition or
"to my knowledge" any
coalition-affiliated contractor. But Senor would
not specify why Iraqi police, who generally take
direction from coalition authorities, had arrested
him and held him for some time.
"We don't want to
note: who is also
"Obviously it is extremely sensitive; and it is
an extremely difficult time for the family and
it would be highly irresponsible for us to begin
speculative discussions about what he may or may
not have been involved in."
General Mark] Kimmitt (right) said
that the only role which the US military played in
Berg's confinement was to liaise with the Iraqi
police to make sure he was being fed and properly
"There may have been a lot of things that he was
not, but he was still an American citizen," Kimmitt
The White House rejected any link between the
abuse of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers at Abu
Ghraib prison and the "brutal, barbaric" beheading
A day after Berg's blood-curdling slaying by
masked assailants was broadcast on an Internet
site, spokesman Scott McClellan rejected
their claim that they were avenging the
mistreatment at the facility near Baghdad.
"Terrorists are going
to seek any excuse, and try to change, their
excuses to try to justify murder, destruction
and chaos," he said, stressing that it was
important to "separate the two" issues.
The spokesman said he was
"not aware" of any
attempt by Berg's killers to contact US authorities
in Iraq or negotiate for his release.
"There simply is no justification for the
deliberate and brutal killing of an innocent
civilian," said McClellan. "The brutal barbaric
action of these terrorists shows their true
Meanwhile, an Egyptian expert of Islamic
movements said today he believed the voice on a
video recording of the beheading of a US
businessman in Iraq was indeed that of top al-Qaeda
operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.
AP, Reuters, AFP
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