Nick Berg

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Berg in October 2003

Nicholas Evan Berg (April 2, 1978May 2004) was an American businessman seeking telecommunications work in Iraq during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. He was captured and beheaded in May 2004. Islamic militants have been accused of killing Berg.

The decapitation, the first of a series of such killings of foreign hostages in Iraq, received worldwide attention because it was filmed, and the footage was subsequently released on the Internet, reportedly from a Malaysian homepage by the Islamic organisation al-Ansars. His killers claimed that his death was carried out to avenge abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. The act was condemned by many Muslim leaders as contrary to Islamic law and harmful to their cause. Berg's father has blamed George W. Bush for his son's death.


Early life

Berg was a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he owned his own company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. He inspected and rebuilt communication antennas, and had previously visited Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda on similar projects.

Berg attended West Chester Henderson High School, where he received a diploma in 1996. During his attendance at this school, according to James Dao of the New York Times, Berg was involved in a minor brush with the law concerning a device Berg identified as a "truth detector". Police handcuffed and detained Berg during his animated explanation of the device, which police suspected of being capable of illicitly opening remotely-controlled garage doors[1] ( Berg attended four universities: Cornell, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Oklahoma, where he was often homeless and was arrested for trespassing[2] ( in the Oklahoma Memorial Union. Also while at the University of Oklahoma, according to, Berg developed a "paper brick" that was to be the precursor to his "Bovl Block" pressed construction blocks. Berg received no degrees for any of his university studies. He once traveled to Kitende, Uganda to help a village, by among other things teaching villagers how to make Bovl Blocks, a modular concrete block Berg invented for use in tower construction where steel is not readily available or is cost-prohibitive. In addition, Berg set up a subsidiary of his company, Prometheus Tower Services, Inc., in Kenya [3] (

Travels and detention

Berg, unlike most of his family, was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and of Bush administration policy. He traveled to Iraq in the hope of helping to repair its damaged infrastructure. He first arrived in Iraq on December 21, 2003, and made arrangements to secure contract work for his company. He also went to the northern city of Mosul, visiting an Iraqi man whose brother had been married to Berg's late aunt. Leaving on February 1, he returned to Iraq on March 14, 2004, only to find that the work he was promised was unavailable. Throughout his time in Iraq, he maintained frequent contact with his family in the United States by telephone and e-mail.

Berg had intended to return to the United States on March 30, 2004, but he was detained in Mosul on March 24 by Iraqi police at a checkpoint. His family claims he was turned over to U.S. officials and held for 13 days without access to legal counsel. FBI agents visited his parents to confirm his identity on March 31, but he was not immediately released. After his parents filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia on April 5, claiming that he was being held illegally, he was released from custody. He said that he had not been mistreated during his confinement. The U.S. maintains that at no time was Berg in coalition custody, but rather that he was held by Iraqi forces. The Mosul police deny they ever arrested Berg, and Berg's family has turned over an email from the U.S. consul stating "I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul.". [4] ( According to the Associated Press, Berg was released from custody on April 6 and advised by U.S. officials to take a flight out of Iraq, with their assistance. Berg is said to have refused this offer and traveled to Baghdad, where he stayed at the Al Fanar Hotel. His family last heard from him on April 9. Berg had his last contact with U.S. officials on April 10 and did not return again to his hotel after that date.


Berg's family became concerned after not hearing from him for several days. Although a U.S. State Department investigator looked into Berg's disappearance, official government inquiries produced no leads. Berg's family, frustrated with what they say was a lack of action by the U.S. government, also hired a private investigator and contacted both their Congressional delegation and the Red Cross in search of information.


Nick Berg seated on a  during the first moments of the video.
Nick Berg seated on a chair during the first moments of the video.

Berg's body was found decapitated on May 8, 2004 on a Baghdad overpass by a U.S. military patrol. Berg's family was informed of his death on May 10. Military sources stated publicly at that time that Berg's body showed "signs of trauma", but did not disclose that he had been decapitated.

On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant Islamist group Muntada al-Ansar [5] ( allegedly broadcast a video with the opening title of "Abu Musa'b al-Zarqawi slaughters an American", which shows Berg being decapitated. Both al-Zarqawi and Muntada al-Ansar are associated with the Al-Qaida movement. The video is about five minutes and thirty-two seconds long. See: Internet Archive (*/http%3A//

Berg is seen in the video wearing an orange jumpsuit. He identified himself: "My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan. I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia."

The video shows Berg surrounded by five men wearing ski masks and head scarves. A lengthy statement is read aloud. The statement says that Berg's killing was in direct retaliation for the abuse of prisoners by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib prison. The masked men then converge on Berg and decapitate him with a knife. A scream can be heard as men shout "Allahu Akbar" (a common Arabic expression meaning "God is greatest!"). Questions exist regarding the circumstances of Berg's death, the authenticity of the video, and the claims made by the U.S. government. Based on details seen in the video, some forensic experts ([6] ( believe Berg was already dead at the time of the decapitation. For more information on the questions being raised, see Nick Berg conspiracy theories.

On May 13, news outlets quoted a CIA source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that a voice analysis of the tape has led the agency to conclude that the masked man who reads the statement and carries out the killing is "with high probability" al-Zarqawi. Some aspects of the video may or do not support that it is al-Zarqawi ([7] ( & [8] (

Missing image
Nick Berg, in orange, seated, before his decapitation by the five men standing over him.

During the video, the man reading the statement threatens further deaths: "We tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way." The video further threatens U.S. President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The video bears some similarities to the videotape showing the murder and decapitation of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. Like Pearl, Berg was Jewish, although it is uncertain whether his captors were aware of that. There are many differences noted with other decapitation videos, including the decapitation video of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia and the video of Kim Sun-il in Iraq.

Warning: Very graphic photo
Image of veiled person holding severed head

Video details

  • From 00:00:08 to 00:00:22, Berg introduces himself.
  • Then a pronouncement is read by a masked man standing between four other masked men.
  • At 00:04:30 in the video, one of the men attacks Berg with a knife; the men surround him; very quickly, screams can be heard as Berg is held by the men and beheaded.
  • At 00:05:20, the head is presented to the camera. It is then laid on Berg's dead body.
This video contains graphic violence which may be offensive and/or disturbing to some viewers.


In the Muslim world, the killing of Berg was strongly condemned. Scholars at Al-Azhar University in Cairo issued a declaration of condemnation [9] (, as did numerous Muslim groups in the West including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah and Palestinian nationalist group Hamas denounced the murder. Hezbollah issued a statement calling it a "horrible act that does an immense wrong to Islam and Muslims by a group which falsely pretends to follow the precepts of the religion of pardon."

Iraqi conservative and fundamentalist religious leaders also denounced the killing. Muthanna al-Dhari, a member of the Board of Muslim Clergy, said the act "does disservice to our religion and our cause. Even if he was military personnel he should be treated as a prisoner who, according to Shari'ah, must not be killed." Iyaad Samarrai of the Islamic Party commented "This is absolutely wrong. Islam does prohibit the killing or the maltreatment of prisoners." [10] (

Others see Berg's slaying as a reminder of why the United States is waging a War on Terror. [11] ( White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan commented, regarding the incident: "It shows the true nature of the enemies of freedom. They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children. We will pursue those who are responsible and bring them to justice."

Conspiracy theories are forming suggesting U.S. complicity in the death. For further details, see Nick Berg conspiracy theories. There were two subsequent similar beheadings also claimed by Islamic militants: American Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr. in Saudi Arabia, and South Korean Kim Sun-il in Iraq, both in June 2004.

Family activism and claimed link to Zacarias Moussaoui

Berg's family blamed the U.S. government and policies that led to his arrest and detainment in April, for creating the circumstances that led to Nick's death. Michael Berg stated that if his son hadn't been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave the country before the violence worsened. [2] His father reportedly stated: "I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused. I don't think this administration is committed to democracy." The FBI claims that Berg specifically refused government assistance in leaving Iraq. On May 14, Michael Berg attacked the Bush administration's foreign policy, blaming the American actions in Iraq for his son's death.

The elder Berg said he has been a member of the anti-war activist group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) since participating in a rally in Washington, D.C., in March 2003. "I think stopping the war and ending racism are extremely important things that this world has to do right now. I am proud to be a member of ANSWER and I plan to be at the march on June 5. I know it is considered a radical group". [12] ( In a message to an anti-occupation demonstration in London, he asked the many people who offered to pray for Nick and his family to "include in their prayers a prayer for peace. And I ask them to do more than pray. I ask them to demand peace now."[13] (,3604,1221515,00.html)

On May 13, it was revealed that Nick Berg had been investigated during the U. S. government's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. Berg's email address had been used by Moussaoui prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to Berg's father, Nick Berg had had a chance encounter with an acquaintance of Moussaoui on a bus in Norman, Oklahoma. This person had asked to borrow Berg's laptop computer to send an email. Berg gave the details of his own email account and password, which were later used by Moussaoui.

Arrests & Confessions

On May 18, citing "Iraq Sources", Sky News reported that four people had been arrested for the murder. Two were later released after questioning.

On August 5th, Nouvel Observateur published a feature story by Sara Daniel detailing her meeting with one Abu Rashid, a leader of the mujahadeen council in Fallujah. He claims that he killed Nick Berg, Kim Sun-il and Iraqis who collaborated with the American forces. He also states that they attempted a prisoner exchange with Nick Berg and was rebuffed by the U.S. government.

See also

External links

de:Nicholas Berg fr:Nicholas Berg ms:Nicholas Berg nl:Nicholas Berg zh-cn:尼克·贝尔格


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