Family angry with US govt over son's beheading

The father of an American contractor whose beheading was shown on an Islamic militant Web site lashed out at the US military and Bush administration.
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Updated on May 12, 2004 01:41 PM IST
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PTI | ByAssociated Press, West Chester, Pennsylvania

The father of an American contractor whose beheading was shown on an Islamic militant Web site lashed out at the US military and Bush administration, saying his son might still be alive had he not been detained by US officials in Iraq.

The video, posted Tuesday, showed Nick Berg, 26, slain by an al-Qaida-affiliated group. The video said the killing was to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. Berg, a small telecommunications business owner, spoke to his parents on March 24 and told them he would return home on March 30. But he was detained by Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Mosul on March 24.

Berg was turned over to US officials and detained for 13 days. His father, Michael, said his son wasn't allowed to make phone calls or contact a lawyer.

FBI agents visited Berg's parents in West Chester on March 31 and told the family they were trying to confirm their son's identity. On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the US military. The next day Berg was released. He told his parents he hadn't been mistreated.

It was not clear how or when he was captured by al-Qaida-linked group.

Michael Berg said he blamed the US government for creating circumstances that led to his son's death. He said if his son hadn't been detained for so long, he might have been able to leave the country before the violence worsened.

"I think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of civil rights this thing has caused," he said. "I don't think this administration is committed to democracy."

Berg's family said US State Department officials on Monday had told them Berg's decapitated body was found on a highway overpass in Baghdad on Saturday.
When told by a reporter about the Web site, Berg's father, brother and sister cried in their front yard in this Philadelphia suburb.

"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."

Berg's mother, Suzanne, said her son was in Iraq as an independent businessman to help rebuild communication antennas. Berg owned a communications equipment company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service Inc., she said.

He was in Baghdad from late December to Feb. 1, and was offered work there with a telecommunications company, his father said. He returned to Iraq in March, his family said, but was told by the company it no longer had a post for him, so he planned to head home. The Bergs last heard from their son April 9, when he told his parents he would come home by way of Jordan. Suzanne Berg said that the family had been trying for weeks to learn where their son was, but that US federal officials had not been helpful. "I went through this with them for weeks," she said. "I basically ended up doing most of the investigating myself." Berg had traveled several times to Third World countries to help spread technology, his family said. He had previously traveled to Kenya and Ghana, where they said he had bought a $900 brick-making press for a poor village.

Michael Berg described himself as fervently anti-war, but said his son disagreed. "He was a Bush supporter," Berg said. "He looked at it as bringing democracy to a country that didn't have it."

Suzanne Berg said she was told her son's body would be transported to Kuwait and then to Dover, Delaware.

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