Al Qaeda Leader Beheads
US Civilian In Iraq

By Ghaida Ghantous
DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq beheaded an American civilian and vowed more killings in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, an Islamist Web site said Tuesday.
A poor quality videotape on the site showed a man dressed in orange overalls sitting bound on a white plastic chair in a bare room, then on the floor with five masked men behind him.
"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael... I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah," said the bound man, adding he was from Philadelphia.
After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed Berg to the floor and shouted "God is greatest" above his screams as one of them sawed his head off with a large knife then held it aloft for the camera.
The Web site said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a top ally of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the man who cut off Berg's head. The statement read out before the killing was signed off with Zarqawi's name and dated May 11.
Jordanian-born Zarqawi, 37, has raised his profile and status as al Qaeda's most active operational leader with a series of suicide bombs and attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.
A State Department official said Tuesday the body of a U.S. citizen identified as Berg had been found in Baghdad. The official said Berg had no ties to the U.S. military or the Defense Department, but offered no further details.
"He was a private American citizen not associated with a military contract," said the State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape carried on the Muntada al-Ansar Islamist Web site.
The ritual killing resembled the murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl, beheaded by Islamist militants in Pakistan.
Berg's orange overalls were reminiscent of those worn by al Qaeda detainees held by U.S. troops at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Photographs shown around the world of naked Iraqi prisoners stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad have provoked international anger and become a serious setback to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both apologized and pledged to punish those responsible but both governments have come under pressure for senior ministers to be held responsible for the abuse.
© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.



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