Nicholas Berg - killed by Zarqawi

The case of Nicholas Berg's beheading was a strange one. The Zarqawi video had lots of strange anomalies, and appeared on the scene right as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was exploding. This is the NY Times report concluding that Zarqawi decapitated Nick Berg.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
May 14, 2004 Friday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Foreign Desk; Pg. 12; THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: THE BEHEADER

LENGTH: 1151 words

HEADLINE: C.I.A. Says Berg's Killer Was Very Probably Zarqawi




The Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is believed with ''high probability'' to have been the masked man seen decapitating a 26-year-old American in a video clip posted on an Islamist Web site, a Central Intelligence Agency official said Thursday.

The C.I.A. assessment, based on a technical analysis of the video, also says the voice on the clip is very probably that of Mr. Zarqawi, a militant linked to Al Qaeda who American officials also say has been behind some of the deadliest bombing attacks in Iraq.

The Web site on which the clip was briefly posted on Tuesday identified Mr. Zarqawi as the man who drew a knife from his clothing to behead the young American, Nicholas Berg. But until Thursday, American government officials had expressed some skepticism about that claim.

The assessment that Mr. Zarqawi himself beheaded Mr. Berg is the most specific allegation of his direct involvement in a recent act of terrorism. In the video clip, the voice believed to be Mr. Zarqawi's describes the killing as retaliation for the humiliation inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq, and warns of further killings to come.

''Your worst days are coming, with the help of God,'' the voice says in a message addressed to President Bush, calling him ''Bush, Dog of the West.'' ''You and your soldiers will regret the day when your feet touched the land of Iraq.''

The White House has been under intense pressure because of the prison abuse scandal in Iraq. On Wednesday, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the ''brutal and barbaric act'' of beheading Mr. Berg had shown ''the true nature of terrorists; they have no regard for innocent life.''

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, said in Baghdad on Thursday that Mr. Zarqawi was still thought by American officials to be in Iraq, where he heads his own terrorist network. In recent weeks, some American officers have said they believed that he had taken refuge in Falluja, the city west of Baghdad that has been the center of the Sunni insurgency.

He is thought to have extensive ties across the militant Islamic movement and is considered an ally of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda's leader. A letter that the American authorities said had been written by Mr. Zarqawi and that they released in March claims his responsibility for some 25 bombings in Iraq.

American intelligence officials had long regarded Mr. Zarqawi as a shadowy figure not inclined to claim responsibility for his actions. But the video clip posted on the Web on Tuesday marked the third time in five weeks that someone believed to be Mr. Zarqawi had issued taped messages, some claiming responsibility for major attacks.

''For one reason or another, he is changing his tactics and raising his profile a little bit,'' an American counterterrorism official said.

Some recent news media reports have suggested that the Arabic-language accent heard on the tape was not consistent with the part of Jordan where Mr. Zarqawi originated. A C.I.A. official would not say exactly how the agency had made its assessment, but indicated that the voice pattern and regional accent heard on the tape had both contributed to the assessment of a ''high probability'' that it was Mr. Zarqawi speaking.

In the past, American intelligence officials have said Mr. Zarqawi had lost a leg in an American bombing in Afghanistan and was fitted with a prosthetic leg in Iraq in 2002, during a stay in Baghdad that they have called evidence of tacit support by Saddam Hussein's government.

But the figure in the video shows no evidence of a limp. An American counterterrorism official said Thursday that while intelligence analysts still believed that Mr. Zarqawi inhad jured his leg and was treated in Iraq, they no longer thought that he had lost a limb.

In the video, Mr. Berg, of West Chester, Pa., was shown bound and cowering before a row of five men in head scarves and ski masks. After the reading of the statement, the men were shown pushing him to the floor. As Mr. Berg screamed, the man believed to be Mr. Zarqawi put a knife to his neck as others yelled, ''God is Great!''

The head was later held up to the camera. People who have seen the decapitation part of the tape describe it as horrific and accompanied by bloodcurdling screams.

Mr. Berg's family has said he was in Iraq looking for a job. He spent some time in Iraqi police custody during his stay; his family maintains that he was in American custody. He had not been heard from since April 9. His body was found Saturday near an overpass in Baghdad.

An April 1 e-mail message from an American consular official in Iraq, Beth A. Payne, given by the Berg family to The Associated Press, said he was being detained by the United States military.

But a State Department spokeswoman, Kelly Shannon, told The A.P. on Thursday that Ms. Payne had been given erroneous information by the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Not until a day after Mr. Berg's release was the diplomat told that Iraqi police had held him, she said.

Mr. Berg's father, Michael, told reporters on Thursday that the F.B.I. looked into a terrorism suspect's connection with his son when he studied at the University of Oklahoma.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed that account, telling The Associated Press that an e-mail address traced to Mr. Berg had been used by the suspect, who appears to have been connected to Zacarias Moussaoui, who is charged in the United States with conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks and attended flight school in Oklahoma. The official said the investigation showed that Mr. Berg had never met the suspect and had not given the e-mail address to that person. Investigators concluded that Mr. Berg's e-mail address had been spread among dozens of people with links to the university.

The A.P. said Mr. Berg mentioned this investigation when he was detained in Iraq.

The Berg family has been harshly critical of the White House. ''Nick died for the sins of the Bush administration,'' Michael Berg, told The A.P. on Thursday.

Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, said he had spoken by telephone with Michael Berg, though he refused to say when or what they had discussed. ''I think every American is pained by what is going on,'' Mr. Kerry told a television reporter after a campaign stop in Little Rock, Ark. ''On the other hand, we have to be strong. We have to be smart if we're going to win the war on terror.''

The United States had previously offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Mr. Zarqawi's capture. On Thursday, senior law enforcement officials said the F.B.I.'s field office was taking the lead in an investigation into Mr. Berg's killing. They said it could lead to charges against Mr. Zarqawi, under a statute that covers the death of an American in a terrorist act, which carries the death penalty.


GRAPHIC: Photos: Senators Arlen Specter, left, and Rick Santorum, Republicans of Pennsylvania, held a news conference yesterday to discuss their response to concerns of Nicolas Berg's family about his safety when he was in Iraq. (Photo by Carol T. Powers for The New York Times)

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Copyright 2004 Independent Newspapers (UK) Limited
The Independent
May 12, 2004
ACC-NO: A20040512C2-80D6-GNW

LENGTH: 304 words


BYLINE: Anne Penketh


AMERICA'S MOST wanted enemy in Iraq emerged from the shadows last night to appear on video apparently cutting off the head of an American businessman, Nick Berg.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa'ida operative who is a close ally of Osama bin Laden, was said by the Islamist website that broadcast the video to be the knife-wielding man who slit Mr Berg's throat. The video was entitled: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughtering an American".

The Jordanian has been high on America's wanted list since he was accused by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, the month before the Iraq invasion, of leading a "deadly terrorist network" plotting terror attacks in Europe.

Zarqawi is suspected of masterminding attacks in Iraq including the massacre of Shia Muslim pilgrims in Karbala and Baghdad on 2 March. He has claimed responsibility for attacks on allied forces.

The US has attributed to Zarqawi a letter on a CD-Rom in which he warned of attacks on the majority Shia population with the aim of provoking a Sunni-Shia civil war to wreck US plans to pull out of Iraq on 30 June. Last month, in an audio tape on an Islamist website, he issued a fresh warning to the "snakes of evil".

"Sharpen your swords and burn the ground under the invaders' feet. Fight the Americans, fight the rejectionists (Shia) and the agents and hypocrites," the tape said.

The US has offered $ 10m (pounds 5.6m) for information leading to the capture or killing of Zarqawi, saying he is trying to build a network of foreign militants in Iraq for al-Qa'ida. Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadhil al-Khalayleh, was sentenced to death in absentia last year for plotting attacks on Westerners in Jordan.

On 6 April he received a further death sentence, with seven other al- Qa'ida militants, for killing Laurence Foley, a US aid worker, in Amman in 2002.

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