Nick Berg

Nick Berg

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Nicholas Evan "Nick" Berg (April 2, 1978 – May 7, 2004) was an American businessman
A businessperson is someone involved in a particular undertaking of activities for the purpose of generating revenue from a combination of human, financial, or physical capital. An entrepreneur is an example of a business person...

 who went to Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 after the US invasion of Iraq. He was abducted and later beheaded
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 according to a video released in May 2004 by Islamist militants. The CIA claimed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ; October 30, 1966 – June 7, 2006), born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh was a Jordanian militant Islamist who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan...

 personally beheaded Berg.

The decapitation video was released on the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, reportedly from London to a Malaysian-hosted homepage by the Islamist organization al-Ansars
Muntada al-Ansar
On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant Islamist group Muntada al-Ansar broadcast a video titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering a Jewish-American", which shows the Jewish-American citizen Nick Berg being decapitated....


Early life

Berg was a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
The Borough of West Chester is the county seat of Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 18,461 at the 2010 census.Valley Forge, the Brandywine Battlefield, Longwood Gardens, Marsh Creek State Park, and other historical attractions are near West Chester...

, a suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

 of Philadelphia, where he owned his own company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. He inspected and rebuilt communication antennae
Antenna (radio)
An antenna is an electrical device which converts electric currents into radio waves, and vice versa. It is usually used with a radio transmitter or radio receiver...

, and had previously visited Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

 and Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 on similar projects.

Berg attended Henderson High School in West Chester, where he received a diploma in 1996. Berg attended four universities: Cornell
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, Drexel
Drexel University
Drexel University is a private research university with the main campus located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. It was founded in 1891 by Anthony J. Drexel, a noted financier and philanthropist. Drexel offers 70 full-time undergraduate programs and accelerated degrees...

, the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

, and the University of Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma is a coeducational public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory for 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. the university had 29,931 students enrolled, most located at its...

. 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. 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
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...


Travels and detention

Berg 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
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

, 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
The telephone , colloquially referred to as a phone, is a telecommunications device that transmits and receives sounds, usually the human voice. Telephones are a point-to-point communication system whose most basic function is to allow two people separated by large distances to talk to each other...

 and e-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...


Berg had intended to return to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 on March 30, 2004, but he was detained in Mosul on March 24 by Iraqi police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 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
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 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." According to the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

, 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
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, where he stayed at the Al-Fanar Hotel
Al-Fanar Hotel
The Al-Fanar Hotel is a hotel in Baghdad, Iraq. It is popular with independent travelers to the city. It is also the place where the Iraqi Heavy Metal band Acrassicauda played their last concert inside Iraq....

. 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 was interviewed for filmmaker Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Francis Moore is an American filmmaker, author, social critic and activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. His films Bowling for Columbine and Sicko also place in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries...

's film Fahrenheit 9/11
Fahrenheit 9/11
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a 2004 documentary film by American filmmaker and political commentator Michael Moore. The film takes a critical look at the presidency of George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and its coverage in the news media...

. Moore chose not to use the footage of his interview with Berg, but instead shared it with Berg's family following his death.


Berg's family became concerned after not hearing from him for several days. Although a U.S. State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 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
Private investigator
A private investigator , private detective or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims...

 and contacted both their Congressional
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 delegation and the Red Cross in search of information.


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 two days later. Military sources stated publicly at that time that Berg's body showed "signs of trauma
Physical trauma
Trauma refers to "a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident." It can also be described as "a physical wound or injury, such as a fracture or blow." Major trauma can result in secondary complications such as circulatory shock, respiratory failure and death...

", but did not disclose that he had been decapitated.

On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant group Muntada al-Ansar
Muntada al-Ansar
On May 11, 2004, the website of the militant Islamist group Muntada al-Ansar broadcast a video titled "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering a Jewish-American", which shows the Jewish-American citizen Nick Berg being decapitated....

 posted a video
Video is the technology of electronically capturing, recording, processing, storing, transmitting, and reconstructing a sequence of still images representing scenes in motion.- History :...

 with the opening title of "Abu Musa'b al-Zarqawi slaughters an American" , which shows Berg being decapitated. Al-Zarqawi had an association with the jihadist group Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

, as does Muntada al-Ansar. The video is about five and a half minutes long.

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 shemaghs. A lengthy statement is read aloud. The masked men then converge on Berg. Two of them hold him down, while one decapitates him with a knife
A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

. A scream can be heard as men shout "Allahu Akbar". After the head is severed, one of the men displays the head to the camera, then lays it down on the decapitated body.

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" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ; October 30, 1966 – June 7, 2006), born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh was a Jordanian militant Islamist who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan...


During the video, the man reading the statement threatens further deaths: "We tell you that the dignity of the Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 and soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

s. You will not receive anything from us but coffin
A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

s after coffins ... slaughtered in this way." The video further threatens U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i President
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...

 Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf , is a retired four-star general who served as the 13th Chief of Army Staff and tenth President of Pakistan as well as tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Musharraf headed and led an administrative military government from October 1999 till August 2007. He ruled...


The video bears some similarities to the videotape showing the killing and decapitation of Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

reporter Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda.At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between...

 in Pakistan in 2002. Like Pearl, Berg was Jewish, although it is uncertain whether his captors were aware of that.

Encounter with Zacarias Moussaoui

On May 14, it was revealed that Nick Berg had been investigated during the U.S. government's investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui is a French citizen who was convicted of conspiring to kill citizens of the US as part of the September 11 attacks...

. Berg's email address had been used by Moussaoui prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks. According to Berg's father, Nick Berg had a chance encounter with an acquaintance of Moussaoui on a bus in Norman, Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma
Norman is a city in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, United States, and is located south of downtown Oklahoma City. It is part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, Norman was to have 110,925 full-time residents, making it the third-largest city in Oklahoma and the...

. 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. The FBI found that Berg had no direct terrorism connections or direct link with Moussaoui.

Arrests and confessions

On May 14, citing "Iraq Sources", Sky News
Sky News
Sky News is a 24-hour British and international satellite television news broadcaster with an emphasis on UK and international news stories.The service places emphasis on rolling news, including the latest breaking news. Sky News also hosts localised versions of the channel in Australia and in New...

reported that four people had been arrested for the murder. Two were later released after questioning.

On August 5, Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur is a weekly French newsmagazine. Based in Paris, it is the most prominent French general information magazine in terms of audience and circulation ....

published a feature story by Sara Daniel detailing her meeting with one Abu Rashid, a leader of the mujahadeen council in Fallujah
Fallujah is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, located roughly west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries....

. He claims that he killed Nick Berg, Kim Sun-il
Kim Sun-il
Kim Sun-il was a South Korean translator and Christian missionary who was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq.- Kidnapping :...

 and Iraqis
Iraqi people
The Iraqi people or Mesopotamian people are natives or inhabitants of the country of Iraq, known since antiquity as Mesopotamia , with a large diaspora throughout the Arab World, Europe, the Americas, and...

 who collaborated with the American forces. He also states that they attempted a prisoner exchange with Berg and were rebuffed by the U.S. government.

See also

  • Eugene Armstrong
  • Michael Berg
    Michael Berg
    Michael Berg is an American activist and politician who was a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the state of Delaware on the Green Party ticket in the 2006 midterm elections...

  • Kenneth Bigley
    Kenneth Bigley
    Kenneth John Bigley , born Liverpool, England, was a civil engineer who was kidnapped in the al-Mansour district of Baghdad, Iraq on 16 September 2004, along with his colleagues Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, both U.S. citizens...

  • Margaret Hassan
    Margaret Hassan
    Margaret Hassan was an Irish aid worker who had worked in Iraq for many years until she was abducted and murdered by unidentified kidnappers in Iraq in 2004, at the age of 59...

  • Jack Hensley
    Jack Hensley
    Jack Hensley was an American engineer from Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia, near Atlanta.While working in Iraq he was kidnapped and beheaded by Iraqi insurgents. His colleague, Eugene Armstrong, was beheaded the previous day...

  • Seif Adnan Kanaan
    Seif Adnan Kanaan
    Seif Adnan Kanaan , was an Iraqi citizen who was abducted in Iraq and beheaded on October 22, 2004. The reason given by the kidnappers, the Army of Ansar Al-Sunna, was that he was employed by the United States Army.-Murder:...

  • Shosei Koda
    Shosei Koda
    Shosei Koda was a Japanese citizen who was kidnapped and later beheaded in Iraq on November 3, 2004 while touring the country. His parents were members of the United Church of Christ...

  • Piotr Stańczak
    Piotr Stańczak
    Piotr Stańczak was a Polish geologist who was beheaded by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan in February 2009. Stańczak was abducted in the city of Attock in September 2008 after gunmen shot dead his driver, translator and bodyguard with whom he was travelling in a car...

  • Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.
    Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.
    Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr. was an American helicopter engineer who lived in Saudi Arabia. He was a native of both Stafford and Eagleswood, New Jersey...

  • Kim Sun-il
    Kim Sun-il
    Kim Sun-il was a South Korean translator and Christian missionary who was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq.- Kidnapping :...

  • John Dawson Dewhirst
    John Dawson Dewhirst
    John Dawson Dewhirst was a British teacher and amateur yachtsman who was one of nine western adventurers that fell victim of the Khmer Rouge during the genocidal rule of Pol Pot. Dewhirst was one of two Britons to die in Pol Pot's Cambodia....

External links