Pictures of Nick Berg beheading in Iraq - Caution: Very Graphic Violence
After hesitations and several discussions among the editors of Albawaba, we decided to go ahead and publish these unprecedented pictures. There were those who said the pictures are too gruesome for the human eye to see, but the majority of us felt that as a major news site, our mission and duty is to share with our worldwide readers the key developments in the Arab world and Middle East as they unfold - without judging them.
In a shocking video posted on an al-Qaeda-linked website, a group of masked men claiming to be angered by occupation abuses of Iraqi prisoners grab an American civilian captive, push him to the floor and cut his head off.
Afterwards, the executioners hold up the man's head for the camera in the video posted Tuesday. It bore the title "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American," referring to an associate of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden believed behind a wave of suicide bombings in Iraq.
The American captive identified himself as Nick Berg, aged 26, of West Chester, Pennsylvania. His body was found near a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday, the same day he was beheaded, a US official said.
Berg was a small-business owner who went to war-torn Iraq independent of any organization to help rebuild communication antennas, his family said Tuesday.
The circumstances of his capture were not immediately known.
The Bush administration, for its part, said those who beheaded Berg would be hunted down and brought to justice.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said. "It shows the true nature of the enemies of freedom. They have no regard for the lives of innocent men, women and children."
It was unclear whether al-Zarqawi was shown in the video or simply ordered the execution. Al-Zarqawi also is sought in the assassination of a US diplomat in Jordan in 2002. The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing.
US officials had feared the shocking photographs of US troops abusing and humiliating Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison - which continue to stir rage throughout the Arab world - would endanger the lives of American troops and civilians.
In the video, five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks stand over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit similar to prison uniforms.
"My name is Nick Berg. My father's name is Michael. My mother's name is Suzanne," the man, seated in a chair, says. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sara. I live in ... Philadelphia."
The video then cuts to Berg sitting on the floor, his hands tied behind his back, flanked by the masked men, as a statement is read in Arabic. Berg sits still during the statement, facing the camera, occasionally raising his shoulders.
After the statement, the assailant directly behind Berg takes a large knife from under his clothing while another pulls Berg onto his side. The tape shows assailants thrusting the knife through his neck. A scream sounds before the men cut Berg's head off, repeatedly shouting "Allahu Akbar!" - or "God is great."
They then hold the head out before the camera.
The video is of poor quality, and its time stamp seems to show an 11-hour lapse between when the assailants finish their statement and push Berg down, to when they behead him. That suggests a delay between those two portions of tape posted on the website.
The FBI is currently analyzing the Internet video, an official said, requesting anonymity, adding that it was too early to draw any conclusions.
The Bergs last heard from their son April 9, the same day fighters attacked a US convoy west of Baghdad.
In the meantime, US officials said Wednesday that Berg had been warned to leave Iraq, but refused. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Berg was in Iraq "of his own accord" and had been advised to leave Iraq but refused.
Berg attended Cornell University, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma, where he got involved in rigging electronics equipment while working for the maintenance department, his father said. He helped set up equipment at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000.
When told by a reporter about the website, Berg's father, brother and sister grasped one another and slowly dropped to the ground in their front yard, where they wept quietly while holding each other.
"I knew he was decapitated before," Michael Berg said. "That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But I didn't want it to become public."
In the video of Berg, the executioners said they had tried to trade him for prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the US administration to exchange this hostage for some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused," one of the men read from a statement.
"So 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."
In the video, the speaker threatened both President Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "As for you Bush ... expect severe days. You and your troops will regret the day you stepped into the land of Iraq," he said. He described Musharraf as "a traitor agent."
Seven soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company face charges in the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in a scandal that has sparked worldwide outrage. The top US administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said Tuesday that the soldiers accused of abuses would be brought to justice. (Albawaba.com)
For pics click here.
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