Who was Nick Berg?
Nicholas Evan Berg was a freelance radio-tower repairman from America who was captured and killed by Islamist militants in Iraq in May 2004. A Pennsylvania native, Berg was a devout Jew. He was educated at Henderson High School and later attended Cornell University but left before graduation. He also studied at Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman but never really obtained a college degree. In 2002, he set up Prometheus Methods Tower Service with several members of his family. The company, which does inspection and rebuilding of communication antennas, quickly grew, and Berg travelled to countries like Kenya and Uganda for work. His first visit to Iraq occurred in December 2003 following the US invasion of the country. After departing in February 2004, he came back a month later. The last communication he had with his family was in early April before his disappearance. His decapitated body was discovered in May. Within a week, a video was shared on the website of the militant jihadist group Muntada al-Ansar, showing his beheading.
Childhood & Early Life
Nick Berg was born on April 2, 1978, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, to Suzanne and Michael Berg. He had two siblings, a brother, David, and a sister, Sarah. He was raised in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. He was considered by many who knew him as a “religious Jew”.
He obtained his high-school degree from Henderson High School in West Chester in 1996. In the same year, he enrolled at Cornell University only to drop out later. In 1998, he briefly attended Drexel University.
In 1999, he took classes during the summer sessions on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. He also was a student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. However, he never graduated from college.
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Nick Berg, along with several members of his family, established Prometheus Methods Tower Service in 2002. The company quickly became a respectable name for inspection and rebuilding of communication antennas.
Berg visited Kenya and Uganda for work and created a subsidiary of his company, Prometheus Tower Services, Inc., in the former country.
Iraq & Alleged Detention by the US Forces
On December 21, 2003, Nick Berg came to Iraq for the first time for similar projects as he had previously done in Kenya and Uganda. He reached out to several officials so he could get some contracts signed for work for his company. He also spent some time in Mosul, where a distant relative lived.
He boarded the flight back to US on February 1, 2004. Two months later, on 14 March, he went back to Iraq. However, after he got there, he was informed that the job he had been promised was not there any longer. While he was in the volatile war zone, he remained in regular contact with his family through telephone and email.
Initially, his plans were to fly back to US on March 30, 2004. However, he was taken into custody in Mosul on 24 March. According to his family, he was then handed over to the US authorities who detained him for 13 days with no permission to reach out for a legal counsel.
FBI agents met his parents but he was not immediately let go. On April 5, 2004, his parents sued the government in federal court in Philadelphia, demanding his release from what they claimed as illegal detention. He was subsequently let go by the authorities. He later stated that he was not mistreated during his confinement.
The US Government has upheld their earlier statement that he was never in coalition custody but rather was detained by the Iraqi forces. The Mosul police say that they never apprehended Berg. In an email to Berg’s family, the US consul wrote that he had confirmed that Berg was being detained by the US military in Mosul.
Despite being told by the US officials to immediately leave Iraq with their assistance, Berg declined and went to Baghdad, where he rented a room at the Al-Fanar Hotel. The last communication between Berg and his family took place on April 9, 2004. He spoke to the US officials for the last time the following day. After that, he did not come back to the hotel.
After not being able not to contact him for several days, his family began to worry. The US State Department investigated his disappearance, but it produced no result. His family, desperate for answers, employed a private investigator and reached out to both their Congressional delegation and the Red Cross for substantial information.
On May 8, 2004, a US military patrol discovered Berg’s decapitated body on an overpass in Baghdad. On 11 May, a video was uploaded on the website of the militant jihadist group Muntada al-Ansa titled ‘Abu Musab al-Zarqawi slaughters an American’.
The five-minute video shows Berg in an orange jumpsuit surrounded by five masked men. After he identifies himself by stating his name, the names of his family members, and his address, he is decapitated with a knife allegedly by Zarqawi. In the video, “Zarqawi” reads a statement during which the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse involving the US Army and Iraqi prisoners are mentioned.
On May 14, 2004, it was reported that Berg had been under investigation for his supposed link with 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. The FBI discovered no direct connection between him and Moussaoui or any reason to suspect that he was involved in any terrorist activity.
According to Sky News, four people were apprehended for the murder, but two of them were later released. Abu Rashid, one of the leaders of the mujahadeen council in Fallujah, claimed that he killed Berg during an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike on 7 June 2006.