US investigating Berg kidnapping: Coalition

PTI | ByAFP, Baghdad
May 17, 2004 05:33 PM IST

US authorities in Iraq are thoroughly investigating the kidnapping of Nick Berg, an American businessman who was shown being beheaded.

US authorities in Iraq are thoroughly investigating the kidnapping of Nick Berg, an American businessman who was shown being beheaded by Islamic militants on a videotape, a coalition spokesman said Wednesday.

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"The US government is committed to a very thorough and robust investigation to get to the bottom of this," Dan Senor told a press conference in Baghdad.

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"Everybody is shocked by these horrific images and this terrorist act."

Senor, top aide to the US civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer, and US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the coalition's deputy operations director, expressed sympathy to Berg's family, who are querying the circumstances of his disappearance in Iraq.

Berg, a 26-year-old from Pennsylvania, was arrested by Iraqi police in the Mosul area on March 24, presumably because they thought he was engaged in suspicious activities, Senor said.

He was visited on three occasions by FBI agents, who determined he was not involved in any criminal or terrorist activities, said Senor

"Mr Berg was released on April 6, and it is my understanding he was advised to leave the country," Senor said. "He was as you know found dead on May 8 and his family were notified on May 10."

Asked if the authorities had any more information on what happened after Berg was released, Senor added, "We are trying to piece all this together and I'm reluctant to release any details at this point."

In a grainy video on an Islamist website linked to the Al-Qaeda terror network, Berg was shown being decapitated with a large knife in front of a group of masked men.

The video claimed the action was in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops, and said the killing was conducted by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with suspected al-Qaeda links.

Kimmitt said it was not clear whether the killer was indeed al-Zarqawi.

"We have no intelligence corroborating where he was or was not involved in the murder," Kimmitt told a news conference.

The killing provoked expressions of shock and outrage around the world.

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