Victim of beheading lived life of adventure

PTI | ByAssociated Press, West Chester, Pennsylvania
May 12, 2004 01:41 PM IST

Ever since he graduated from high school, Nick Berg lived a life of adventure. His latest was an independent trip to Iraq to help rebuild its infrastructure.

Ever since he graduated from high school, Nick Berg lived a life of adventure. He took college classes at Cornell, Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma. He helped set up electronics equipment at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. He even made several trips to Third World countries - at one point teaching villagers in Ghana how to make bricks.

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His latest adventure was an independent trip to Iraq to help rebuild its infrastructure. But the trip ended in tragedy when the 26-year-old Berg was beheaded by an al-Qaida-affiliated group that said the killing was to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.

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A video posted Tuesday on an al-Qaida-linked Web site showed the beheading, and the executioners held up his head for the camera. Berg's father said his son was Jewish and had a fringed religious cloth with him, but he did not think Berg wore the clothing in public. Still, "there's a better chance than not that they knew he was Jewish," Michael Berg said. "If there was any doubt that they were going to kill him that probably clinched it, I'm guessing." Friends and family members describe Berg as smart, funny and enormously generous.

His father said Berg returned from his trip to Ghana emaciated because he gave away most of his food, and the only possessions he had were the clothes on his back.

"That's the kind of passion we're dealing with here," Michael Berg said.

Berg, who was unmarried, owned a small business that worked with communication equipment like radio towers, and had traveled to Third World countries to help spread technology, his family said. He saw his trip to Iraq, his father said, as an adventure, but one that fit into his ideology. He was a war supporter and backed the Bush administration.

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 March 30.

After working for a Texas company, Nick Berg went into business for himself in West Chester, near Philadelphia. Berg flew to Iraq on Royal Jordanian airlines, his father said. His father thought that would be the route he would take out of Iraq and even showed up at Kennedy Airport in New York in hopes of picking him up March 30. His friends at the local YMCA said Berg worked out and swam several times a week, that he was interested in power lifting and that he was always quick with a joke.

"Some of the hardest laughter I had at the fitness center were from the jokes he told," said Nick Fillioe, a sports director at the West Chester Area YMCA.

"I would say he was a free spirit, very intelligent," he said. "He was a real smart guy. He knew a little bit about everything." The State Department on Tuesday told the Bergs their son's body was in Kuwait and could arrive in the United States as early as Wednesday.

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